Sally Kabel, the little Bay Ridge girl who bravely battled leukemia for most of her young life with a sense of optimism and a zest for life that earned her the nickname “Sweet Sally Sunshine,” died at NYU Langone Hospital on Sept. 19. She was six years old.
Her father, Matthew Kabel, announced her death on Twitter. “Sally went home to God at 2:01 p.m. this afternoon, snuggling Mommy and Daddy while listening to her favorite songs,” Matthew Kabel tweeted to hundreds of followers.
Matthew Kabel and his wife Nicole were with their daughter at the end.
Funeral arrangements were not announced at press time.
“We will share more info on how we plan to let her ‘village’ celebrate her life at a later date,” her father wrote. “For now we ask everyone to pray for our family, and would appreciate it if everyone could wear yellow or gold this Friday in honor of our Sweet Sally Sunshine.”
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Kabel’s mention of the colors yellow and gold is a reference to the colors championed by childhood cancer research advocates.
Sally, who turned six on Sept. 11, was admitted earlier in the week into the intensive care at NYU Langone with a severe sepsis infection, according to her father, who candidly shared his family’s anguish on social media.
At one point, she went into septic shock and suffered kidney and lung failure, her father revealed.
Matthew Kabel’s openness about his daughter’s battle against a deadly disease was embraced by the Bay Ridge community, who took the family into their hearts and followed her progress over the past five years on social media and by attending fundraisers for the family
The grassroots group Bay Ridge Cares held several fundraisers to help the Kabels pay for Sally’s medical treatments.
Sally was diagnosed with leukemia at 10 months and her entire life was filled with doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy and other treatments.
But it was rare to see Sally without a smile on her face, according to friends of the Kabel family, who said it was always a delight to hear her laugh at something that amused her.
“Sally was a giant with the heart of a lion,” Bay Ridge Councilmember Justin Brannan, a family friend, told this newspaper. “She endured more than any human being should have to endure and she was only six years old. Sally had the power to inspire and bring people together without having to say a word. I’ve got to believe Sally was put on this planet for a very important reason, perhaps to show us the beauty of what’s possible when people come together and pour out their hearts with love, kindness and generosity. We will never forget Sally’s light.”
During their daughter’s fight for life, Matthew and Nicole Kabel also turned their attention toward helping other families undergoing the same struggle.
The couple brought Sally every year to Times Square for the “Go for the Gold” campaign, a one-night event in which the electronic signs in the Crossroads of the World would be lit in gold in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Local elected officials such as state Sen. Martin Golden and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis stood with the Kabels in Times Square each year.
Golden said he was deeply touched by Sweet Sally Sunshine.
“Sally Kabel was a remarkable, brave, beautiful and inspirational child. Each time I saw her smiling face, it was a gift and a reminder that we must cherish each day of our lives. Sweet Sally fought her battle against cancer courageously, fearlessly and gracefully. My deepest prayers and condolences go out to her parents and family in their time of this great loss,” he told this newspaper.