Research Stipend Named After a Beloved Local who Fought Leukemia
Back in 2015, Mike Ziegler and his fiancée Jackie Abatecola were planning to get married. That was, until they received the worst news imaginable: Jackie had cancer. With just 24 days until they were supposed to tie the knot, Jackie was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (Lara Bryn, CBS 6 Albany). This specific kind is one of the most common types of Leukemia, and was responsible for 43% (nearly half) of all Leukemia-related deaths in the U.S that year (Cancer.org).
According to CBS 6 Albany's Lara Bryn, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) was one of the first things Mike looked up, and by some twist of fate, found that their annual "Light the Night" fundraiser fell on the same night as their wedding. While he and Jackie were in the hospital at Albany Med during the event, their friends and relatives decided to participate as opposed to cancelling their original travel plans for the wedding; they even set a fundraising record. Sadly, Jackie lost her fight with Leukemia seven months later.
Six years since her passing, Mike and his record breaking team keep her legacy alive by continuing to participate in the annual Light the Night event, calling themselves "Jack's Pack".
We get together as a way to celebrate life and raise money, so no one ever has to go through the events that we did. -Mike Ziegler (Lara Bryn, CBS 6 Albany)
Rick Ostroff with the LLS explains to CBS 6 Albany how much he appreciates Mike's passion for and commitment to honoring the promise he made Jackie on her deathbed: to continue the fight against Leukemia.
Mike works at the health insurance company CDPHP, which is collectively a supporter of LLS. To reward Mike and his team for their efforts, the LLS offered the company a $50,000 research stipend to be named after anyone of their choosing. A clear choice, they named it after Jackie (Lara Bryn, CBS 6 Albany).
Mike called Jackie's parents as soon as he found out about the award.
I immediately called Jackie’s parents and made them go on speaker phone so the three of us are in my car on speakerphone crying. -Mike Ziegler (Lara Bryn, CBS 6 Albany)