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North Hills Monthly

Local Teen Sponsors Make A Move for Make-A-Wish

Jun 30, 2015 09:42PM ● By Jill Cueni Cohen

When he was just 5 years old, Make-A-Wish had a huge impact on Zack Abel’s life. Now 15, Zack, of Franklin Park, has become a well-known spokesman and fundraiser for the organization through his 5-mile bike/run/walk race around North Park Lake, called Make A Move for-Make-A-Wish. Now in its fourth year, the event will be held Sunday, July 26, at North Park Boathouse. 

“I know firsthand the impact of receiving a wish when you’re sick and going through a serious illness. I want other kids who are going through what I did to get their wish; to give them the happiness that I got and the strength to keep fighting,” he explained. To date, his event has enabled more than 30 wishes to be granted. 

“Zack’s event has really become a community partnership,” said his mom, Natalie Abel, noting that he begins planning six months ahead of time. “Each year, he receives such enormous support from local companies and friends who want to help him succeed in reaching his goal to help Make-A-Wish. As his mom, I help him with the logistics, but Zack creates the substance of the event; he writes letters, distributes flyers, talks to companies, picks the colors, the t-shirts, the medals and is the overall ‘approver’ before anything gets done.”

Zack also tells his story to classes, and speaks at events, charities and companies.  “I feel that Make-A-Wish changed my life, because it gave me a time of happiness when I needed it the most. As I got older and looked back at that time when I was sick, I remember my wish the most and not the pain and suffering part. The whole experience taught me to appreciate life more,” he said.

Zack added that he loves meeting supporters from a variety of backgrounds. “I always know a lot of the people at the event, and most of the people who have attended in the past still attend today,” he said.

Make A Move attracts more people every year, and Zack improves the event each time. “This year, it will be much more of a competitive race, with Elite Runners performing the timing services via Chronotrack, and there will be a photo finish,” he said. His goal is to raise another $55,000 for Make-A-Wish, and there’s no doubt that he’ll do it.

“From the past three races, I have learned that any goals you set can be far surpassed,” he said.

“We’ve watched Zack grow from a small child with a dinosaur dream to an intelligent, dedicated young man who has raised nearly $120,000 for other children with life-threatening medical conditions,” said Judith Stone, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish. “We are humbled and honored by his efforts with Make A Move. Whatever the future holds, his will be bright.”

Dr. Brendan Hyland, North Allegheny Intermediate High School principal, said that Abel serves as the perfect role model for students and adults. “He has demonstrated the ability to persevere over some genuinely difficult circumstances at a very early age,” he explained. “Zack has taken the curve ball that life has thrown at him and has instinctively figured out that giving back and serving others can truly be the best medicine. I can say without hesitation two things about Zack: He has only begun to scratch the surface of what he is capable of doing, and I know this world is a much better place because Zack Abel is in it.”  

To register for the race, visit To donate, visit