The Strength of Family

All proceeds will be divvied up between the Shell family, The Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Albany Medical Center, the Giving Tree Foundation which helps Burnt Hills families in crisis and the American Cancer Society. WNYT's Jessica Layton will MC the night and Jacob's doctor will be on hand to speak. Jeff Blatnik, a cancer survivor and Olympic gold medalist will be the luminara ceremony speaker and this ceremony is how a fellow Burnt Hills teacher and longtime friend of the Shells is doing her part to help.

"You donate a certain amount of money and it goes toward a luminara, which are bags with candles lit inside them. Typically, you put them along the edge of a roadway or path and it lights your way as you walk. It's just a beautiful pathway on each side and I wanted to contribute for Jacob," said Debbie Mahoney, a Spanish teacher at the middle school since 1986.

Mahoney said she tries to do a little here and a little there because every little thing helps. And helping this family means a little something more to her, since she's known Matthew Shell since the late '80s when he first came to the district and worked with his wife Kim.

"They're a special family. Jacob's dad is such a sweet person and everybody who has been touched by the lives of these people want to do something for this family, whether it's through prayers, little notes or sending something for this child in the mail," said Mahoney. "It's kind of like the Burnt Hills-way, if you will. We're a big huge family in many ways and we just want to make sure [the Shells] meet with success."

Mahoney said she keeps up with Caring Bridge notifications which give updates on Jacob's condition. The last update, she said, warmed her heart because finally, it was good news.

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