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Amazing Abby teams up with Great Danes to battle Saints

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By: Kiana Rugar

Last Friday, the University at Albany women’s soccer team had a game under the lights in Tom and Mary Casey Stadium against in-city rivals; Siena College. Normally we would tackle this game as any other game against the Saints — eager to play, anticipating a fight and expecting a win. Except, today, something was different. There was this new feeling —  a new drive in all of us that we never had before. As we waited for the first whistle to blow, we heard a five-year-old girl cheering her heart out among our fans. It was at that very moment that playing this game meant so much more.

Abby becomes a member of the UAlbany women's soccer team/ UAlbany Athletics
Abby becomes a member of the UAlbany women’s soccer team/ UAlbany Athletics

Her name is Abby. We like to call her Amazing Abby since it’s more fitting. Last year UAlbany women’s soccer proudly became a part of the program Friends of Jaclyn. The program allows sports team across the nation to “adopt” a child who is suffering from a chronic disease. This adoption allows the child to experience what it’s like to be a part of a sport and more importantly, part of a team. Last year we got the privilege of meeting Jaclyn, the inspiration for the foundation. This past week at our banquet we got to adopt Abby. As soon as we met her there was an instant connection. Abby, who is just five-years-old, is battling leukemia. You’d think all the therapy, hospital visits and battles she’s faced would bring her down, rather Abby is quite the opposite. You would never be able to guess what this girl is going through. She has a bright, loving, carefree personality and is a stunning person on the outside as well. In fact, she’s way more of a people person than most of us, so we’re learning from her each day.

Bianca Webb, Caitlyn Paltsios, Alexa Schneider and Abby at UAlbany women's soccer banquet
Bianca Webb, Caitlyn Paltsios, Alexa Schneider and Abby at UAlbany women’s soccer banquet/ UAlbany women’s soccer

Abby surprised us at our game and when we found out she was there, we all ran to her and gave her a big hug. She told us that she practiced how she was going to run up to us and we all complimented her on her Albany sweatshirt and number 10 jersey that the team gave her a week before. After our visit with Abby, it was time to focus on the game. As our coach gave her usual pregame talk, she said something that stuck with me.

Sure we had fitness testing all week and were going into this game in a new formation, but Abby was there supporting us with a smile on her face as she’s battling leukemia. If she can do that, playing a 90 minute soccer game should be pretty easy.

Unfortunately we didn’t get the result we were hoping for. We settled with a 1-1 tie with our lone goal coming from Cait Paltsios in the first five minutes and Siena’s goal coming in the last 10 minutes. On top of how awful it felt to not come out with a win, I was also concerned with how Abby would feel after the game. Sure enough her sparkling face came running to me and gave me a hug. She then made me race her. I could hardly get my legs to go after a long game, however I couldn’t turn down a race against Abby. Abby beat me in several full field races.

The team couldn’t have asked for a more special person to adopt as a Great Dane.

Abby's jersey the team gave her/ UAlbany women's soccer
Abby’s jersey the team gave her/ UAlbany women’s soccer

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