When Albert Maslia battled pancreatic cancer and endured a second surgery in 2012 to remove his pancreas, his family showed support by participating in the annual PurpleStride Atlanta walk.
In 2013, his grandson Andrew Ladden decided to take that support further by raising money for pancreatic research for his bar mitzvah project.
In the past two years Andrew, now a freshman at Pace Academy, has raised more than $30,000 for the cause to honor his grandfather, affectionately known as Poppy, who died from the disease in 2014.
“I feel like he would be proud of me if he knew all about this, and I think he does,” Andrew said.
It’s not just Andrew walking for Maslia. Family members have walked with Andrew each year, and last year friends from school joined Andrew’s Team Poppy for the 5K walk at Centennial Olympic Park.
“I think it’s really cool how all these people come out and support,” Andrew said. “They all want to help.”
With just more than a month before this year’s walk Saturday, Nov. 14, Andrew has raised more than $3,300. In the past, Andrew raised money by asking for donations, but this year he hopes to hold a bake sale at school as a fundraiser.
You can donate to Andrew’s team at bit.ly/1OKdqev.
Poppy’s widow, Lucy Maslia, gets teary when she talks about her grandson’s project.
“I get choked up,” she said. “I’m so proud. It’s been very difficult for me since I lost my husband. He was a big factor in Drew’s life. Andrew is very much like him, very much.”
In addition to honoring her late husband, the walk is instrumental in bringing pancreatic cancer awareness to the forefront. According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer accounts for approximately 3 percent of all cancers and 7 percent of cancer deaths in the United States.
Approximately 24,840 men and 24,120 women will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, and approximately 20,710 men and 19,850 women will die from it.
“It’s neglected,” Lucy Maslia said. “You hear so much for the walk for breast cancer and recently for dementia. They brought that to the forefront. When the American Cancer Society sends out their general mailings, they always mention other cancers but very, very seldom mention pancreatic. It’s quite a killer. It needs to be brought to the attention of the American public.”
Her grandson’s efforts have landed him at No. 3 on the PurpleStride’s list of top fundraisers.
“It’s remarkable how much he’s earned for pancreatic,” Maslia said. “It’s really amazing.”