The Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day Parade just got a little sweeter.
The neighborhood staple, now in its 26th year, will be held on Sunday, March 24 in loving memory of Sally Kabel, the Bay Ridge girl known to many as “Sweet Sally Sunshine.”
Sally, who spent most of her young life battling leukemia, ultimately beat the disease but the harsh treatments took a toll on her young body. She died on September 19 at just six years old.
Bay Ridge rallied behind Sally at the time of her diagnosis, just as her hometown rallied behind her family in the wake of her passing.
Ribbons – gold to commemorate Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – cropped up across the neighborhood seemingly overnight. Schools encouraged students to wear gold. Sunflowers (a symbol, Sally’s parents said, they never quite associated with their daughter) began popping up everywhere in the days after her death – a sign, they felt, that their child was okay.
Now, half a year later, the community will rally behind the Kabels yet again.
“It’s impossible to imagine a person in Bay Ridge that doesn’t know of Sally, her courageous, inspiring life, her loving and devoted family, and her legacy as an unmatched unifier,” Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee Vice President Richie O’Mara said. “In fact, Bay Ridge never failed to rally around sweet Sally both in life and with her passing, as the entire community turned gold and sunflowers adorned every street in a show of unconditional love and support for her and the entire Kabel family.”
Sally’s father, Matt, said he was overcome with emotion when O’Mara shared with him the parade committee’s decision.
“I cried when Richie told me about it…in Kettle Black nonetheless,” Matt said. “I can’t convey how much the love people continue to show for Sally and support we continue to receive as a family means to us. We are really doing our best to ‘be like Sally,’ and keep finding joy and live life.”
Sally was diagnosed with leukemia at just 10 months old. Despite her illness, family and friends agreed that it was rare to see the young girl without a smile on her face.
Sally’s spirit, O’Mara alluded, embodies what the Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day Parade is all about. “Indeed, Sally continues to inspire us to be kind to each other, to dance and to find joy in even the hardest of times,” he said. “The Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee is beyond proud to dedicate this year’s parade to the Kabel family, and more specifically everyone’s angel above, Sweet Sally Sunshine.”
“Acts like this keep us going,” Matt added, “as it shows how important Sally’s positive spirit was to the community. We have to continue that for her.”
The Kabel family will march with friends in the parade, which will kick off at 1 p.m. and march down Third Avenue. Sally’s brother, Thomas, will also be step dancing in the parade.
Sally, Matt said, was named after her mother Nicole’s Irish grandmother, Sally Dunne. Nicole’s mother is also named Sally.