How My Friend Rallied Against the Empire State Building for His Cancer-Stricken Daughter
Joe DeProspero has two sons and a wife, and he is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as "outrageous," "painfully real," and "downright humiliating." Author of the dark comedy fiction novel "The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt," Joe is also writing a parenting humor book. He will be posting twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Most of us, we bring a Barbie doll or a baseball glove home to our kids and we feel like a hero. But I have a friend who puts us all (or at least me) to shame.
In an article I wrote last December, I talk about my friend Matt Kabel and how he and his wife, Nicole, weren't letting their daughter Sally's rare form of cancer, known as Infant Mixed Lineage (MLL) ALL Leukemia, spoil Christmas for their family (and specifically for their two sons). Matt and Nicole threw on festive music, dressed up as elves, and did just about everything within their power to create an environment in line with the Christmases they grew up celebrating. And they did it all with smiles on their faces.
However, we're now in summer's third trimester, and a new wrinkle has surfaced in the Kabel family's fight against cancer. Matt became aware that several friends and organizations had formal requests denied to have the Empire State Building "go gold for pediatric cancer." Going about it another way, Matt posted to the ESB's Facebook page, politely and respectfully appealing to have them reconsider. His posts, along with Sally's photos, were promptly deleted, as were other posts made by fellow parents of children with Leukemia. This lit a fire within a community already well versed in fighting for what they love.
"Before this, the Empire State Building was my favorite skyscraper, anywhere," Matt told me. "It has been a symbol to our family that, when we travel away, is a sign that we have returned home when it pops into view. Now, when I see it, my heart sinks, almost like finding out an athlete you admire is a fraud."
Refusing to be cast aside, Matt swiftly maneuvered within his social network to capture the attention of Fox News, which quickly ran a story about the injustice. But it didn't end there.
The story was picked up by the New York Daily News.
And The Huffington Post.
Sally's mom, Nicole, was interviewed by CBS and a strong flock of supporters showed up on The Today Show.
Famous rapper Tyga made a public plea to ESB to go gold.
This store in Brooklyn showed their support for the cause with this roadside sign...
And to offset ESB's refusal to illuminate in gold, Coney Island agreed to do just that.
But despite the overwhelming support and iron-clad case that ESB should show the same support for pediatric cancer that they have for the Democratic National Convention, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and meaningless sports playoff wins, the group that manages the famous structure's calendar claims (via a recent statement) that there are simply too many different forms of cancer to accommodate all lighting requests, defending their stance by insisting that, by lighting up for "World Cancer Day," they have effectively covered all forms of the disease. But I believe parents of kids with pediatric cancer would concur that with children, it's wholeheartedly different. It just is. And if the Empire State Building wants to stand above us as the true "Heart of New York City," the people in charge of it would have a heart. And pay the same attention to seriously ill children that it has to fictional, nun chuck-wielding turtles and men who throw balls for a living.
What I find saddest about this situation (aside from the sick children themselves) is the fact that the Empire State Building, an inanimate object loved by many, will now forever be viewed in a different light -- pardon the pun. The structure itself has done nothing wrong. Yet, as Matt stated, he will never look at the building with the same reverence and awe that he once did. And frankly, that's a shame. But what isn't a shame, what isn't sad at all is that Matt and Nicole (and so many parents like them) are serving as a powerful example of the lengths a parent will go to in order to defend the honor of their child. There is no cash award, no medal to hang around their necks should they succeed. Just the knowledge that their baby girl is being rightfully acknowledged, and that there is compassion in a world too often tainted by injustice. I truly hope that the Empire State Building comes around. And if they don't, I hope the Kabels and other families dealing with pediatric cancer know that they are loved and supported by many and are not alone in their fight.
Me and my favorite skyscraper, Matt
For more information on the Kabels' vs. the ESB, check out their Facebook page.
And to become a part of the Sweet Sally Sunshine community and to receive poignant analysis and updates on Sally's condition, visit her Facebook page.
* Empire State Building photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com