The Ragamuffin Parade is a Bay Ridge and Brooklyn tradition that celebrates the children of our borough and the child in all of us.
This year, the family-friendly parade along Third Avenue will also serve as a prelude to an equally celebratory, bright and hopeful event: the Sweet Sally Sunshine Fundraiser, organized by Bay Ridge Cares to support little Sally Noel Kabel, who was diagnosed with leukemia this past July at just 10 months old. Her cancer is currently in remission, although she is still receiving chemotherapy in the hope that it will prevent a need for a bone marrow transplant.
The fundraiser will run from 2 to 5 p.m. at The Wicked Monk, at 9510 Third Avenue, rain or shine. The whole family is welcome and kids under 12 get in free, with a donation of $10/$5 requested from adults/kids over 12. Admission includes one drink ticket, light refreshments, entertainment, a gift auction, raffle, and games for the kids. All proceeds go towards supporting Sally and her family’s medical and other related expenses.
Such thoughtfulness and consideration from their neighbors in and around Bay Ridge has been “unbelievable,” “reassuring,” and at times “surreal,” said Sally’s parents Nicole and Matt Kabel.
“[Bay Ridge Cares] set up a calendar so twice a week, local neighbors bring us food for dinner. So tonight, when I might not get home [with Sally from the hospital] until 7 p.m., there’ll be a home-cooked meal for us and the kids,” said Nicole. “We walk into Food Town now and five people will walk up to us. . . It’s interesting to have people so involved in our day-to-day, but it’s also nice, these words of encouragement and support.”
“We knew families battling cancer in small towns who had the entire community supporting them [and] I felt being in NYC, we. . . would get lost in the shuffle [but] the last few days have proven me wrong on that,” wrote Matt in a September 21 blog post. “I guess people want to help but don’t know how [and] the more people rooting for Sally, the better.”
Little Sally first came down with a high fever in June and a month of tests and treatment for dehydration, kidney and breathing issues, and other problems finally resulted in her diagnosis with leukemia. There are only 200 cases of infant leukemia in the United States and fortunately, Sally’s was caught early, although the rarity of her case led to some initial hesitation in her diagnosis.
Sally just turned one year old on September 11 and, according to her mother, is in pretty good spirits, not letting her bouts of vomiting and nausea prevent her from playing with her toys and brothers—Thomas, 7, and William, 4—when she can. In addition to her chemotherapy treatments, she is also receiving physical and occupational therapy, and feeding therapy.
“Every day is so different and can change so quickly that in general, we live in today,” said Nicole, who has had to cut back on her work hours as a massage therapist, while Matt juggles full-time work with taking care of the boys and going on hospital runs.
“A day at home just involves a lot of catching up with the kids, making them feel safe and secure, and catching up on mail,” she said, noting that while their oldest son has had the benefit of child-friendly books about leukemia and kid cancers, and a Chemo Duck with a cork and bandana on the head to familiarize him with tubes and losing hair, their youngest “doesn’t quite understand [and] gets sad and worries that we’re not going to come back from the hospital.”
Fortunately, the Kabel family bond is as strong as ever, in part due to the love that they all share for and with one another.
“Each of my kids has a little ditty of their own that we sing. Sally’s starts off with “Sweet sweet Salllllyyyy. . .” and the kids know it and sing it to her,” said Nicole. “I sing it to her when we’re not home [and] there’s a line in it for my husband, a line for the boys, then all of us together. The boys will ask me to sing her song when she’s not here. It’s like a family prayer.”
“Sweet sweet Sally, / you’re mommy’s baby girl / I love you / And I thank God for the day you came into this world /
Sweet sweet Sally / you’re daddy’s little sunshine / He loves you / And is thankful he had a baby girl /
Sweet sweet Sally / You’re Thomas and William’s baby sister / They love you / They’re so thankful you were born /
Sweet sweet Sally / your family loves you / Sweet sweet Sally / your family loves you.”