When "Abbie's Angels" take to the halls of University Park Mall in Mishawaka Saturday for Memorial Children's Hospitals Hearts of Gold Walk they'll be carried on the wings of 10-year-old Abbie Zook of Granger.
The walk benefits children like Abbie who are fighting serious illnesses.
Sadly, Abbie, a 5th grader at Mary Frank Elementary School in Granger, lost her fight with the most common form of childhood cancer, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia or A-L-L.
We visited Abbie's mom and dad, Jill and Ron, this week and found Abbie's room just as it was the day she died, August 25, 2011. Her clothes, moccasins and favorite Notre Dame baseball cap still on her bed.
Jill says Abbie had been complaining of leg pain and, while they were first told she had growing pains, they took her back to the hospital.
"We took her into the hospital on a Saturday and the doctor noticed bruising on her legs, which is a symptom, and he took her blood."
The same day the Zook's were told to take Abbie to Memorial Hospital in South Bend. She was sent to Riley Children's Hospital in Indianpolis for seven days and then back to Memorial for her treatment, which involved Chemotherapy.
Ron says accepting your only child has such a devastating illness is difficult, " You don't know what to think. A lot of things go through yourr head and you just don't know what to do."
But they say, Abbie knew what to do. Jill says she handled her disease like a trooper, "She handled it really well, she got her hair shaved and she put her baseball cap on and didn't leave home without it. It was her Notre Dame cap."
Ron says Abbie was outgoing and friendly to everybody and their world was turned upside down in August when she died from an infection just three months after her diagnosis. "She was playing in the hallway (hospital) with one of the other children and they had to convince her to leave, that it was time to go, and then the next morning..."
Abbie's grandmother, Lorraine Paczkowski remembers Abbie's spunk and her signature flash of the "peace" sign.
Jennifer Tonkovich, an RN in Memorial's Pediatric wing, has known Abbie since Abbie and her daughter, Emily became best friends in Kindergarten.
She says, as a nurse, she never gets use to watching a family go through a devastating illness, "It's very difficult to watch a family go through, but when you know the family and know the child it's a million times worse."
Jill says Abbie will love that her friends and family are walking in her honor Saturday and Grandma, Lorraine, says Abbie will be with them. "I don't think Abbie thought she was going to heaven, I think she thought she was going to be here with us forever and ever." When asked if Abbie will be there with them, Lorraine added, "absolutely, she's walking with us everyday."
Currently, Abbie's Angels has about 50 team members. For more information on the Hearts of Gold Walk you can go to WNDU.com and click on the Big Red Bar.
Also, there are links below for more information on A-L-L or to see Maureen's previous story about Team Ella.