NEWARK — When Newark residents Tammy Hone and her mother, Carol, Wages found out Stefanie Spielman had died, they couldn’t help but get emotional.
“We felt like we knew her even though we never met her in our lives,” the Newark woman said. “She really brought cancer research out into the open.”
Spielman, 42, died in Columbus Thursday after a more than 10-year battle with breast cancer.
The wife of former Ohio State and NFL football player Chris Spielman and mother of four children, Stefanie was known throughout central Ohio for raising money and awareness to fight breast cancer.
She and her husband created The Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, which has raised more than $6.5 million for the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
“She was a big factor in getting breast cancer information to women and bringing breast cancer out in the open so women could feel comfortable doing everything in their power to diagnose it and fight it,” said Wanda Grover, a registered nurse at Licking Memorial Hospital’s Women’s Health Center.
“Many people in the community have taken part in some of her fundraising events,”Grover said. “She will be missed quite a bit in this area.”
An Ohio native and OSU alumna, Spielman was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, at 31. Her husband put his career with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills on hold to support her.
Although she was found to be cancer free a year later, the disease returned in 2001 and again in 2004.
“She always impressed me with her capacity for compassion and strength,” OSU Alumni Association president and CEO Archie Griffin wrote in a statement. “She took her personal struggle and used it as a platform to help other women battling breast cancer.”
Throughout her battle, the Stefanie and her husband were dedicated to raising money for The James through a variety of events including the fundraiser, Stefanie’s Champions, which honors those who support cancer patients.
Over the years, many Licking County businesses and organizations raised money for the fund. Velvet Ice Cream announced plans to donate a portion of the sale of each carton of their Vanilla Lovers Trio ice cream to the fund in October.
One of the most recent fundraising efforts is Fueling the Cure, a year- long commitment by United Landmark, Southwest Landmark and Heritage Cooperative, to donate $1 to the fund with every propane delivery they make.
United Landmark delivers fuel around central Ohio including Licking County, Lancaster, Chillicothe and Zanesville.
“We wanted to partner with the Spielman fund because it’s a central Ohio fund, and they do a lot of things locally,” said Thad Dixon, manager of the propane division for United Landmark’s Lancaster branch.
“People find something in their lives that they are meant to do, and for Stefanie, it was to help fight breast cancer and prevent it. She leaves behind a very strong legacy of doing things for other people.”
Wages’ sister-in-law is a breast cancer survivor, and she said her family has always admired Spielman for her valiant fight.
“She’s an icon,” Wages said. “We looked up to her because she made it.”
Funeral arrangements for Spielman are pending.
Anna Sudar can be reached at (740) 328-8544 or email@example.com.
Channel 10 and Larry Phillips contributed to this story.