Bay Ridge locals hang golden ribbons to raise awareness of pediatric cancer

golden ribbon
Nicole Kabel hangs a golden ribbon in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and in memory of her daughter, Sally, by Russell Pedersen Playground in Bay Ridge.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Locals strung golden ribbons across Bay Ridge on Wednesday to raise awareness of pediatric cancer and memorialize local children who have lost their lives to the illness, such as Olivia Boccuzzi, Frankie Loccisano, and Sally Kabel, according to the event’s organizers. 

“We’ve had so many children in the community who have families that have battled pediatric cancer, so we wanted to have this as an education platform,” said one of the event’s organizers, Nicole Kabel, who lost her daughter, Sally, to leukemia in 2018. 

During the sixth annual “Go Gold” event, nearly 20 volunteers tied hundreds of golden ribbons to trees and poles up and down Third and Fifth Avenues, in neighborhood parks, and in subway stations. Each ribbon was accompanied by a unique card that listed facts about pediatric cancer — a change from prior years, said Kabel.

“This was the most organized year yet. I think it had the most purpose in that it wasn’t just about going gold, it was also about educating,” she said, noting that in previous years, many locals didn’t know what the ribbons symbolized. 

September marks not just Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, but also the two-year anniversary of the death of six-year-old Sally Kabel, who was just ten months old when she was diagnosed with infant leukemia. Neighbors know Sally as “Sweet Sally Sunshine” — a combination of Nicole and her husband, Matthew’s nicknames for her — and remember Sally for her cheerful disposition, Nicole said.

Everybody fell in love with her. She captured everybody’s heart,” she said. “She had such a way about her. She was such a well-loved child and always is remembered.”

The community supported Sally and her family from the moment she was diagnosed, bringing meals to the Kabels and organizing fundraisers and blood drives. Kabel said the efforts not only helped uplift the family, but also introduced them to many other Bay Ridge locals.

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Sally Kabel was six years old when she died from leukemia.Courtesy of Matthew Kabel

They rallied around her from the very start,” she said. “They did meal train for us, three times a week, and most of them were not people that we knew, they were people that showed up.”

Nicole and Matthew have organized the “Go Gold” event since 2014, but said they tried to involve more of the community this year to expand outreach. 

This is the first year that we really looked at everyone and said can you help us do this?” Nicole said, adding that the organizers worked to place the ribbons in high-traffic areas. “On every corner there was a gold ribbon. We tried to be more specific and purposeful about getting people’s attention.” 

A friend of the Kabels who helped organize the event said that each fact card included information about the grave impact of childhood cancer and a QR code that links to resources and places to donate. 

We tried to make each card different, so when people walked down Third Avenue, they’d see a different fact on every block,” said Courtney McDermid. 

Kabel said that the event brought the community together and helped remind attendees of their blessings, despite the coronavirus pandemic. 

It puts things in perspective. It can be so much worse in so many ways. You need that levity sometimes to look at the good things you have,” she said. 

goldren ribbons
Courtney McDermid, left, and Nicole Kabel, right, hung ribbons up and down Third Avenue in Bay Ridge on Sept. 16 in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.Photo by Caroline Ourso