GLOVERSVILLE - On April 18, Jacob Shell woke up in the night with severe pains in his stomach. It would be about a month before the 8-year-old from Burnt Hills was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer.
Jacob began undergoing chemotherapy. Matt Shell, his father, said surgery will eventually be required to help Jacob recover from the disease.
While there have been some difficult times for the family, they have not had to fight alone against the disease. Their battle has become a concern for people throughout the Capital Region, especially in Gloversville.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Buck’s Pizza Manager Melissa Faville holds up a “SHELLSTRONG” T-shirt for sale at the store on Thursday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Buck’s Pizza supervisor Beth Geleta makes a pizza at the store on Thursday. The business recently conducted “Jacob’s Week” on Monday through?Saturday. Every time a customer purchased a large or a “belly buster” pizza, $1 went to Jacob Shell’s family.
Matt Shell said what has helped the family is knowing there are not only friends and family who can help them, but thousands of people from the area who have expressed their support for Jacob in one form or another.
"They are the ones pushing us forward through this," he said.
Numerous examples abound in the city, and the Capital Region, of the support for the family. There have been many fundraisers. The common sight of the "SHELLSTRONG" T-shirts, which are named after a Web site about Jacob's fight against cancer.
The Gloversville High School varsity football team was among the fundraisers, holding multiple car washes.
Matt is originally from Gloversville. Shell said he grew up "a stone's throw" away from Tom Ciaccio's house.
Clearly, no competition kept Ciaccio, head coach of the Gloversville varsity football team, and Shell, the head coach of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football team, from recognizing what was most important in life.
Shell said earlier this year he got the opportunity to thank the members of the team. He told them the important thing was not the money they raised. Rather, it was their willingness to help someone else. They were better people because of it.
Ciaccio said he was proud of the character his team showed.
"The kids did this because it was the right thing to do," he said. "They were willing to say 'We need to do our part to help.'"
Michael Ponticello, the principal at McNab and Meco Elementary Schools, said the support his nephew has received from the city was not a surprise to him.
"People understand the challenge that family is facing," he said.
He said one particularly strong show of support came from the eighth annual Andy Studenic Memorial Golf Tournament that took place at Kingsboro Golf Club on Sept. 26.
More than 80 golfers came to play at the tournament, with the proceeds going to Jacob's family. Michele Blake, who has organized the tournament for the last five years, said it was the most success they have had in that time.
Blake said it was a natural fit for the proceeds to go to Jacob's family. Both his parents, Matt and his wife, Kim, are from Gloversville. The owners of the golf course actually know Matt and Kim.
Shell said the golf tournament was something of a highlight.
"It's just amazing what people will do [to help]," he said.
Blake said every year it gets a little personal for her, whoever is chosen to receive the proceeds from the event.
Promotional material is needed for the tournament, so she has to dig into someone's life a little bit. Given that she is a mother with three children, she said, this year's event certainly struck a chord with her.
"God forbid something like that should happen to me," Blake said.
She has been able to keep track of how Jacob is doing by checking out his Web site at www.caringbridge.org
At the Web site, Kim wrote about seeing Jacob's "Shellstrong" T-shirts on athletes from Gloversville. About all of the notes, gifts and prayers they have received from Gloversville during their ordeal.
"We have always been proud of our roots, looking fondly back at our days in maroon and white," the Web site said.
The entire family - Matt, Kim, their daughter, Hannah, and Jacob - thanked the city.
"The words we were raised on ring true to this day: Once a Husky, always a Husky," the Web site said.
Matt said in addition to the support they have received from strangers, the family has been able to lean on other relatives as Jacob has battled cancer. He said Bob Gould, Kim's father, makes it a point to try and see Jacob every day.
"The support we've received has been overwhelming," he said.
That support continues to show up. Buck's Pizza on South Main Street had "Jacob's Week" running Monday through Saturday.
Every time a customer purchased a large or a "belly buster" pizza, $1 went to Jacob's family, Kelly DeMaio said.
DeMaio, a manager at Buck's, said the business wanted to do something to help Jacob. They just chose this time because there did not seem to be any other events going on for him at this time. They also got Derby Office Equipment, Rooney Sign & Graphics, and radio station FLY 92.3 to help sponsor the fundraiser.
DeMaio said the response the pizza shop received to the week was amazing.
"I'm proud to say we live in Gloversville," she said.
Shell said Jacob will head to Boston sometime around the first week of November to continue treatment for his cancer. That could take about three months. Total treatment time for the disease will take about 13 months, he said.
So far, Jacob is doing well. Shell said Jacob's doctors are very happy with his condition, so far.
Shell, about 4 years removed from his own fight with cancer, said the morale boost the family has received from people is more important than the money. Knowing so many people are concerned about Jacob's battle keeps their spirits up.
Sometimes people say they are sorry for what has happened, Shell said. But they do not want people feeling sorry for them. It is enough for the family to know they have support.
For more information, visit www.caringbridge.org. Under the visit a Web site section, type in shellstrong.