Community supports #YabbyStrong

Mike ‘Yabby’ Yablonski, right, is pictured with his family, from left, his wife Sarah Yablonski and their children, Jack and Aaron. Mike Yablonski, a 56-year-old Naugatuck native and custodian for the Naugatuck school system, is battling cancer. -CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — Before a family vacation this summer, Mike Yablonski wasn’t feeling well. He went to see a doctor and was told he had four out of ten markers for Lyme disease.

He was prescribed an antibiotic and told he would be fine.

“While on vacation, he rapidly declined. We ended up with an emergency transport to Yale (New Haven Hospital) where they really didn’t know what was wrong with him. He spent the entire month of August there, where they determined it’s Burkitt’s lymphoma,” said Sarah Yablonski, 37, Mike Yablonski’s wife. “That’s when he began treatment and life went in a blender.”

Mike Yablonski, a 56-year-old Naugatuck native, remains strong as he battles stage 4 Burkitt lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Mike Yablonski is still undergoing chemotherapy at Yale Smilow Cancer Hospital and fighting to get back to his normal life with his wife and their two children, Jack and Aaron.

His battle with cancer has garnered support from the borough community, especially the Naugatuck school system, where Mike and Sarah Yablonski work.

Mike Yablonski, who’s known as “Yabby,” is a custodian for the school district. He’s spent the past 11 years at Hillside Intermediate School and 14 years at Naugatuck High School before that.

He got his nickname when he was a student at Central Avenue School. A custodian nicknamed him Yabby, and it stuck.

“Mike is an amazing person. He is truly dedicated to Hillside and goes above and beyond to do whatever is needed to support our students and teachers,” Hillside Intermediate School Principal Johnna Hunt said. “The entire school community has Mike in our thoughts and prayers. Mike is a fighter and we know if anyone can beat this cancer, Yabby can.”

Ashleen Whitaker, Sarah Yablonski’s sister, ordered green rubber bracelets with #YabbyStrong written on them. Connor Walker, the sisters’ nephew and a Hillside student, sold them during lunch breaks at school.

A few schools held dress down days to raise money for the family, and a ziti dinner fundraiser in late September drew a large crowd. A casino bus trip is planned for Nov. 2.

Whitaker organized a GoFundMe page under the name “#YabbyStrong” to support the family, as well. As of last week, $10,075 had been donated to help the family, surpassing the goal of $10,000.

“I’ve been humbled by all the support from the community, friends and strangers,” Mike Yablonksi said.

The sisters also appreciate the support they’ve received from the community.

“Everyone has really stepped up and gone above and beyond to support our family,” Whitaker said.

Sarah Yablonski said situations like the one her family is going through have a ripple effect. She said her husband would give his shirt off his back to anyone, and emphasized that above all, he is a great father.

“He is such an on-the-move, dedicated, never-missed-an-event-for-his-children kind of guy,” Sarah Yablonski said. “It has changed everything, everything is different. It has definitely changed all of our lives.”

Mike Yablonski said, “I’m very proud of my wife and children on how strong they are.”