Local fundraiser helps out-of-town family

Ballston Spa Sunshine Kids’ Addison Huskie, 5, of Ballston Spa, pours lemonade for customers during annual Lemonade Stand outside Ribbon’s Cafe in Ballston Spa on Saturday, July 30, 2022. Money raised from Saturday’s sales towards 3-year-old Jagger Zopp, who is diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare, aggressive, fast-growing cancer.

Ballston Spa Sunshine Kids’ Addison Huskie, 5, of Ballston Spa, pours lemonade for customers during annual Lemonade Stand outside Ribbon’s Cafe in Ballston Spa on Saturday, July 30, 2022. Money raised from Saturday’s sales towards 3-year-old Jagger Zopp, who is diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare, aggressive, fast-growing cancer.

BALLSTON SPA – Just as a cancer diagnosis can strike from out of nowhere, so too sometimes can help arrive from strangers who know what it’s like to deal with the deadly disease.

On Saturday the Ribbon Cafe in Ballston Spa hosted a lemonade stand to raise money for three-year-old Jagger Zopp, of Binghamton, who was diagnosed in April with a rare form of fast-growing cancer in his pelvis called Rhabdomyosarcoma.

Ballston Spa resident Adrianna Hine, a frequent customer at the Ribbon Cafe, said she’s best friends with Jagger’s mother Kelsey Zopp. She said she was talking to Kelsey recently while at the Ribbon Cafe and the restaurant’s owners overheard her.

“They heard the story, and they were gracious enough to offer to put this together,” Hine said.

Kelsey Zopp could not attend the fundraiser Saturday because she’s preparing to take her son on Sunday to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She said he’s scheduled for surgery on August 4. Kelsey said she was amazed at the generosity of the Ribbon Cafe and others in Ballston Spa for their willingness to help her family.

“From their graciousness, we don’t live local to them, but based on our son’s story, because he’s 3 and his cancer is so rare, they wanted to do the benefit for our family,” she said. “We couldn’t be more honored and grateful to them.”

The Ribbon Cafe was founded in 2018 in honor of Jennifer Myers, who died from breast cancer in 2017 at the age of 45. Her husband chef Kevin Myers and his sister Christine Pyle run the restaurant, which frequently hosts cancer fundraisers.

Pyle said hosting the lemonade stand for the child of one of the restaurant’s customers is in keeping with its mission to help people battling cancer. She the restaurant helped raise $10,000 for a veteran/firefighter with cancer in June.

“Whatever Jagger needs, we’re going to do,” Pyle said. “Every single month with do give back to a local cancer organization. We partner with the Mollie Wilmot Radiation Oncology Center in Saratoga to do give-backs for their patients, but we’ve been branching out because there seems to be more of a need for others too. We wanted to do something where we could make a difference, and this is where we’ve landed. We do fundraisers. We deliver free meals to help out cancer patients if somebody asks us to. That’s really what we’re about.”

On Saturday the lemonade fundraiser was run by Ballston Spa residents Kate Dubois-Huskie and her children Addison Huskie, age 5, and Dax Huskie, age 3. Another village resident, Tricia Stevenson, also helped the fundraiser, with her children Scarlett, age 6 and Sophia, age 3 selling $12 and $14 “stick-on nails.”

Kate Dubois-Huskie said the lemonade costs $2 a cup and there was also a raffle for gift bags, with a sheet of tickets costing $10. She said last year she participated in an Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer fundraiser that raised about $2,000. She said Saturday’s fundraiser was not associated with any larger charity and was only targeted toward Jagger Zopp.

Dubois-Huskie said online donations to help the Zopp family already totalled $3,000 before lemonade sales at Ribbon Cafe started, so she was hopeful the fundraising total would hit about $5,000. She said her purpose in organizing the lemonade stand is teaching her young children how to give back to their communities the same was she was taught to do when she was younger by volunteering for the Salvation Army.

During the fundraiser Addison Huskie, despite being only five-years-old, could be seen taking change from customers.

“They’re learning how to do that kind of thing. I’m impressed,” Dubois-Huskie said of her daughter. “They have to interact with the customers, ask them when they like, and if they need change, serve the actual lemonade. Most importantly, we want to try to teach them how to give back to the community at a young age.”

Although every little bit helps, it would take a lot of lemonade to put much of a dent in Kelsey Zopp’s medical bills for her son.

Kelsey Zopp described the pending surgery for her son.

“They’re going to separate his pelvis, probably remove his bladder,” she said. “It’s a very, very extensive, invasive surgery, but we feel it’s his best chance to survive, because without surgery and just doing radiation, if it was inoperable there’s an 80% relapse rate, so we’re trying to give him his best odds.”

Kelsey said Jagger’s first 17 days in the hospital cost $200,000, and she believes the rest of his treatment will cost hundreds of thousands more.

“The way the insurance company has worked with us, unfortunately, we’ve learned that having a son with a cancer diagnosis is nothing like we would have assumed prior to this,” she said. “He gets a shot every 21 days that is like $19,000 at a clip, and that’s just for one shot. That has nothing to do with his (chemotherapy), and he’s still going to need chemo after the surgery. It’s a multidisciplinary treatment plan that he’s on, so with or without surgery he’ll need additional chemo, he’s still going to need radiation probably to make sure they clean up all of these (cancer) cells. It’s around a lot of vital organs, and it’s a soft tissue cancer, so the treatment plan right now has no end, so I couldn’t even begin to tell you what it may be like for him in terms of the cost.”

She said she’s been shocked to see the expense of Jagger’s cancer treatments, and to see how little of it is covered by insurance.

“Your guess is as good as mine as to what this will end up costing,” she said. “We do have two insurance plans, but, unfortunately, with a rare cancer a lot of things are considered experimental, which means the insurance companies aren’t liable to pay for it.”

Categories: -News-, Saratoga County

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