Man honors fiancée who died of Leukemia ahead of virtual ‘Light the Night’ walk

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk will be virtual again on Thursday, October 21st. Usually held at Siena College, teams will need an extra boost as they fundraise from home, and that includes the “Jack Pack.”

In 2015, Mike Ziegler and Jackie Abatecola were in love and ready to spend the rest of their lives together.

“My fiancée was diagnosed with leukemia 24 days away from our wedding,” said Mike.

In the hospital, the couple learned about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) and the Light the Night walk that would fall on the same day Jackie was supposed to walk down the aisle. 

“All of our wedding guests, 200-plus some people, instead of going to our wedding, they went to the Light the Night walk,” said Mike.

The “Jack Pack” was born—rallying support for Jackie and raising money for a cure.

“While she was laying in a hospital bed receiving chemo she broke a record for raising money,” he said.

Seven months after her diagnosis, the vibrant young woman passed away. And now, six years later, the Jack Pack is stronger than ever.

“I hope to God she’d be proud,” said Mike.

Every Light the Night, Jackie’s loved ones celebrate her life and raise funds.

“It’s a family of people who are remembering others, who are celebrating good outcomes, and people who are just there to support everyone else around them,” said co-chair of the walk, Rick Ostroff.

His parents started the local chapter of LLS in 1962 after he was diagnosed with leukemia as a child, which it turned out to be a different blood disorder. He carries out his parents’ legacy of providing support to blood cancer patients and their families.

“During the pandemic cancer didn’t stop and people want to talk about a lot of the struggles they’ve had, but picture being a cancer patient not being able to get your treatment,” said Rick.

Leukemia is the most common cancer in children and teens, killing more than 23,000 people a year. For those dealing with the darkness of loss, the walk is a chance to be the light.

“She loved life. She is still my inspiration to this day. Yes it has been six years, but there’s not a second that goes by that I don’t think of her and just want to carry the torch that she passed on to me,” said Mike.

Light the Night is next Thursday, October 21st. Donate here and help our local chapter meet their $500,000 goal.

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