Abigail Boldt: An Inspirational Story of Passion and Resilience
How often do you have a bad day? At times, I must say I have bad days. I am human and strive for all days to be wonderful, but many do not turn out the way you want them to be through no fault of your own. The other day, I was not having a good day, but attended a Kiwanis event that changed my mood completely. That luncheon event was titled the “Abe Lincoln Awards Program,” sponsored by the Downtown Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis, of which I am a proud board member.
This program has been sponsored by the club since 1976. The event recognizes students who have achieved while overcoming physical, emotional and environmental adversity. The program has three important goals:
- Public recognition for each nominee for his or her accomplishments
- Opportunity for four of the 26 recognized students to earn special recognition in the form of scholarship funds
- Delivery of a loud public message to other young people that are struggling with difficulties, that people in the community care and encourage them to continue their struggle for success
For the students that participate in the program, the first place winner received a $16,000 scholarship; the second place student received a $12,000 scholarship; and the third place student received an $8,000 scholarship. On this day, Abigail G. Boldt received a fourth place scholarship worth $5,000, but she was the first place winner in my book. Abigail attends Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis.
In the article, “These High School ‘Heroes’ Are Thriving Despite Incredible Challenges,” the author said that as a freshman at Park Tudor High School, Abigail Boldt was diagnosed with a rare form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. As she noted at the time of diagnosis, “It seemed like the end of the world, and something from which I might not return.”
According to this article titled “A Local Teen’s Campaign to End Cancer,” Abigail would proceed to undergo a total of 24 spinal taps throughout her treatment, which lasted a period of two years and two months. During the treatment, she received intrathecal chemotherapy through a lumbar procedure, where a needle is placed between the cerebrospinal space, in between two vertebrae in the spine.
During this constant trial of pain, Abigail said she learned a great deal about herself. While she was undergoing treatment and through the support of family, friends and the local community, she raised $25,000 to outfit and decorate a pediatric patient room at the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. She selected an equestrian theme out of her love of horses. In the true nonprofit spirit, she put other children ahead of her own needs.
“It brings me such joy to know something I did will make a child feel more at ease and hopefully feel a little better while staying in the room,” she said. She also wanted to give back to the blood banks after receiving transfusions, so with the help of many individuals, she hosted a blood drive at her family residence. They collected 131 units of blood, which was one of the largest private blood drives in Indiana history. All of this happened while Abigail continued to be very sick.
In the article, “Zionsville Teen Named Indy Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Woman of the Year,” the author noted that Abigail won this award because she and her team raised more than $282,000 in 10 weeks to fight cancer. Her team was mostly adults, except for Carmel High School student Erica Zirkelbach.
Abigail held fundraisers and her team members reached out to their connections to get donations. Her mission was to generate funds to end cancer. She also shared her story of survival to raise awareness and funds. Her passion was and is still to fund research, and she wants to ultimately live to see a cure to all types of leukemia. She will attend Vanderbilt University this fall to study biomedical engineering.
When asked what words she would like to share with children fighting their battles, she replied, “I know that life is rough right now, and it may seem like this is never going to end; but there is a light at the end of that tunnel. It’s just really hard to see right now. It will become brighter as the days go by. You can get through this. Don’t give up.“
I must say, Abigail inspired me from a philanthropic perspective. To generate funds for a patient room, to lead the effort for a private blood, drive plus generate several hundred thousand dollars, while very sick, should be an inspiration to us all. May Abigail reach her goal of being a doctor and particularly serve children. Thank you for telling all of us your story. Let your story continue to be an example of service for all of us to follow. If you decide not to be a doctor, I would hire you in a minute to be a development officer!
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.