After surviving two strokes, Paula Symanski became a staunch advocate for the American Stroke Association and American Heart Association, serving as the Stroke Ambassador to the Capital Region Heart Walk and Run, and being a driving force in the first CycleNation to take place in the Capital Region in 2018. Days before that event, on Sept. 24, 2018, Symanski passed away of sudden cardiac arrest.
To honor her work, the American Heart Association created the Paula Symanski Legacy Award, presented at CycleNation each year.
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the 2022 CycleNation at The Armory at Russell Sage College, Ellen Abbott will receive the Paula Symanski Legacy Award.
“In 2014, my family’s lives were forever changed when I had a stroke. However, one of the bright spots after having a stroke was getting to meet and work with Paula Symanski,” Abbott, Library Clerk 2 at the University at Albany, said. “She was an amazing woman who welcomed me with open arms to my first advocacy event with the American Heart Association. Her story inspired me, and she encouraged me whenever I was nervous about sharing my own story. She was taken too soon, and I know we all miss her hugs and feel her loss at every American Heart Association/American Stroke Association event, including CycleNation. I am thrilled that Paula’s legacy continues in the lives of those she met, in events like these, and in this award. It is an honor to receive this award, and she will continue to inspire me and my family to share our story to ensure others recognize the signs, symptoms, and methods to prevent a stroke.”
Abbott suffered a stroke in December of 2014, when she was 39 years old. Her husband Wade recognized the signs of stroke, especially her speech difficulties, and said his wife sounded like “a cross between Scooby-Doo and a Minion.” The Abbotts’ sons, Tim and Dan, were 8 and 6 at the time.
Abbott was the Stroke Ambassador to the 2018 Capital Region Heart Walk and Run, and the entire Abbott family supports the American Heart Association each year at the Heart Walk, on World Stroke Day, Wear Red Day, and have also spoken at Heart Association events across the Northeast.
“Paula would be thrilled to know that Ellen is receiving the legacy award,” said Patty Kilgore, Symanski’s widow. “She had so much respect for Ellen and her family, and their willingness to share their story to raise awareness about stroke prevention and treatment. I’m also thrilled that Ellen is received this award. She carries on the message of hope that Paula wanted stroke survivors to have and hold in their hearts.”
“It’s incredibly touching that Ellen Abbott is receiving the Paula Symanski Legacy Award this year,” said Joan Clifford, Senior Director of Alumni Relations at Russell Sage College, Executive Director of the Russell Sage Alumnae Association and chair of the 2022 CycleNation. “They both worked so hard on behalf of the American Stroke Association. When they shared their stories, people really listened, and I know learned ways to prevent stroke, or at least recognize it when they saw it. Ellen and her family have been so creative and consistent in supporting the fight against stroke, it’s an honor to present this award to Ellen this year.”
Past recipients of the Paula Symanski Legacy Award, created in 2019, are:
- 2019: Capital Region nurses
- 2020: No award
- 2021: Alan Boulos, M.D., Dean of Albany Medical College; past president, Board of Directors, American Heart Association in the Capital Region; past chair, CycleNation
For information or to register for CycleNation, visit CycleNation.org/CapitalRegionNY.