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The Strength of Family

Jacob Shell is only 8 years old but he's a hero to the Burnt Hills community where he lives, and some might say he gets it from someone who's an even bigger hero in his eyes, his father.

Last May, Jacob was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer. Since then he's gone through continuous treatment, including strenuous cycles of chemotherapy, stem cell transplants and monoclonal rounds. His mother, an English teacher in the district, took the year off to be by her son's side and the community rallied to pull of Jacobpalooza to raise money for the family. But it was Jacob's father, Matthew Shell, who truly knew what his son was going through, as he fought and beat mouth cancer. This triumph is what encouraged Sheryl Lauria to help coordinate the "ShellStrong Stroll," an overnight walk starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 1, and ending at 7 a.m. Sunday, May 2.

"We wanted to do something that could engage the entire community, from young to old, and we thought bringing everyone together to walk might be a nice idea. The premise behind walking at night is that cancer never sleeps, therefore the time we spend walking overnight sends that message we can fight back," said Lauria, the event coordinator.

Lauria said her family has known Matthew Shell since he coached their now 24-year-old son during his first year as high school football coach. Now, he coaches their younger son and Lauria said there are many other families who have had similar interactions with the Shell family. And that's exactly why pulling off a massive fundraiser was relatively smooth sailing.

"We're a very close knit community and the floodgates have opened; we're getting registrants every day and there's still time to register. As a new event we weren't sure what to expect but we're hoping to have between 1,000 and 1,500 participants," said Lauria.

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