CONEY ISLAND — In what’s become an annual tradition, Coney Island’s iconic Parachute Jump was lit gold on Friday, Sept. 20 for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. And this year the lighting was held in memory of Sally Kabel, the brave and beautiful little Bay Ridge girl who lost her battle with cancer one year ago and who was affectionately known as “Sweet Sally Sunshine.”
“It’s a good thing that so many people are gathered together to help raise awareness, but it’s a bad thing that it even has to be done,” said Bay Ridge resident and founder of Frankie’s Mission Camille Loccisano, whose son Francesco succumbed to childhood cancer just two weeks after his 17th birthday.
“We’re hoping to make a lot more progress because we don’t want to see children suffering and losing their lives anymore,” she continued. “It’s going to take a lot more time but we have made some progress because of evenings like this.”
Among those speaking at the event were Sally’s father Matt Kabel; Carolyn Williams, a mother who lost her son to pediatric cancer; Coney Island Cathedral Elder Rory Batts and City Councilmember Mark Treyger, who hosted the ceremony.
“We’re going gold to raise awareness; we’re going gold to help build a greater network of support. because in addition to the physical toll it takes on a child, and the emotional toll it takes on a child, there is a whole host of emotional, painful and financial tolls it takes on the families going through this,” said Treyger.
“And so it really speaks to the fact that we have a whole neighborhood here with folks from our clergy, our housing, our civics, parent associations, our schools, the Girl Scouts, so many wonderful groups that have come together to support one another,” he added.
Williams, who recently lost her 15-year-old son Malcolm, spoke to those who’ve lost a child to cancer, asking them to call out their child’s name in unison to honor their memory. “And to everybody out here, we have to take care of our children and find a cure because we are all here as a family that’s all come together as one,” said Williams. “We look out for each other because this horrible disease has to go.”
Treyger introduced Kabel by recalling that Sweet Sally Sunshine was part of the original parachute lighting in Coney Island.
“Back when the Empire State Building originally refused to light up gold for Childhood Cancer, other landmarks including Times Square and One World Trade stepped up in response to support kids like Sally,” said Kabel. “What sparked that response was Mark Treyger offering to light Coney Island’s Parachute Jump gold. Every year since then, we are honored to have Mark and Coney Island support Childhood Cancer Awareness.”
Just as Kabel was speaking about Sally, the Parachute Jump lit up in gold, forcing him to look up, smile and say, “Hi Sally,” as the audience applauded.
Kabel continued, “Sally beat cancer, but the harsh treatment used to save her life ultimately led to her passing a year ago this month. As we said our final goodbyes to her on that fateful day, I could see the Empire State Building outside her hospital window. At that moment I knew we needed to keep fighting for better treatment options for kids like Sally, Frankie, Malcolm and all the kids to come,” he added.
Treyger thanked all the sponsors that made the lighting possible. “Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower, the Parachute Jump, and Coney Island stepped up to support our families when the Empire State Building did not,” exclaimed Treyger.
“It was noteworthy that that Parachute Jump lit up gold as Matthew Kabel was speaking about his angel Sweet Sally Sunshine. She’s now watching over all the children,” Treyger added.