A Burnt Hills family that twice battled cancer with the support of the community brought the team together again on Saturday night for a new cause.
Beginning at 7 p.m. and to conclude at 7 a.m. today, children and adults were to walk on the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School track for the “Be Strong Stroll,” which raised money for The Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Albany Medical Center, the Double H Ranch in Lake George, scholarships and local families in need.
The event was a way for Matt and Kim Shell to give back to the people and establishments that helped them through their own ordeals with cancer.
Matt Shell was diagnosed and treated for stage 2 squamous cell mouth cancer in 2005, and four years later, the couple’s 8-year-old son Jacob began a 14-month fight with a rare childhood cancer. Both are now healthy.
“When we were going through our tough times a few years ago, the community helped us get through it,” said Matt Shell. “They did a lot for our family, and this is a way we can give back. ... This is our way of making sure that everybody [dealing with cancer] has a shot.”
More than 100 people had gathered on the high school grounds an hour before the event was to begin, with organizers hoping for another 300 more, depending on the weather. The outfield of the school’s baseball field was littered with tents for walkers taking a break from the stroll around the track, while a bounce house and silent auction had been set up nearby and there was a large tent sheltering live music.
For students in the BH-BL system, it’s basically a no brainer to attend the event, according to Jack Guba.
“Pretty much every kid knows the Shells,” said the high school senior, who was a participant and volunteer for the event,
Matt Shell is the school’s varsity football coach and his wife is a teacher.
“The Shell family is such a great family and they have done so much for the community,” Guda said.
Guba described the community as “tight knit” and said the event is one that draws anyone who has been touched by the Shells.
High school sophomore Dan Porter, a participant and volunteer, added, “They have always helped me out.”
This kind of support “is pretty special,” said Matt Shell, “and certainly we would do anything for them. ... It works both ways.”
Guba said part of the reason he likes the event is simply because it “feels good anytime you give back.” He said he looks forward to doing the event when he comes home from college.
As for the challenge of walking all night, neither Guba nor Porter seemed concerned.
“I got a good night’s sleep,” Porter said. “I’ll be ready.”
Their decision to stay up all night was made in part because neither had packed a tent.
Matt Shell hopes the event will continue for many years to come.
“As long as we can keep it going, we’re going to keep it going,” he said.
For more information about the Shellstrong Foundation, which presented the stroll, visit www.shellstrongfoundation.org.