Cougs give back to their Other Mother

Kristy Szablya receives over $20,000 through GoFundMe from the Cougs she has helped over the last years


Courtesy of Kristy Szablya

JOSIE GOODRICH, Reporter/Copy Editor

Cougs helping Cougs. 

Kristy Szablya has lived by that motto since the day she joined the official WSU Facebook group, “WSU Parents’ Chat Cafe.” Now, with the death of her husband, Steve, the Cougs she has helped for years are returning the favor.

Mandy Bickert, a group administrator, said she has been in the group since 2016. Even after her son’s graduation in 2019, Bickert never left, she said.

Due to the recent death of Szablya’s husband, Bickert set up a GoFundMe with a goal of $500. The GoFundMe reads:

We’ve seen time and again how much Kristy has helped students, families, and anyone she can. Now is the time to show her how much she is appreciated in her time of grief. Kristy lost her beloved husband yesterday. We’d like to raise a modest amount to send some potted plants and a memorial plaque (the family has asked for no food or flowers at this time, potted plants are preferred). Please donate a small amount if you feel called to do so. Any money collected above our goal will be provided directly to Kristy to use toward funeral expenses or a memorial for Steve.”

In just a few minutes, the goal of $500 was exceeded rapidly, and the fundraiser now sits at $24,583.

“Everybody really felt for her and just wanted to be there for her because of all of the times that she’s been there for other people,” Bickert said.

Szablya’s original role in the WSU parent group was making chicken noodle soup and bread and taking it to sick kids in Pullman, Bickert said. Over time, she took that role and made it something much deeper: the Other Mother.

Melanie Bruski sent her daughter, Lucy, to Pullman in 2018, and on Feb. 14, 2019, Lucy Bruski was diagnosed with cancer. Melanie Bruski said she was in California at the time, and Szablya stepped in as Lucy Bruski’s Other Mother.

Szablya took Lucy Bruski to doctors’ appointments and PET scans, and would take her back to her house and make dinner and dessert for her even after the PET scans, Melanie Bruski said. Lucy Bruski spent quite a bit of time with Szablya and her husband, gaining a friendship and family that will last a lifetime.

“She has been such a constant in so many lives. She’s just an exceptional woman and she’s genuinely beautiful on the inside and the outside,” Melanie said. “She’s genuinely this exceptional human being and how can you not want to support somebody like that, when they have spent so many years supporting you?”

While Szablya is the face of “Your Other Mother,” her husband is the backbone, Melanie said. “His support in everything that Kristy does is exceptional. He was so, so supportive of her and her ventures and everything that she does for the students in Pullman.” 

On the “Steve Szablya’s Memorial Service” Facebook page that was created, Szablya said, “In lieu of flowers, donations may be made on the GoFundMe page: Our family will use the funds to make donations to the many organizations Steve was actively involved in.”

“[Steve] is kind, and I won’t say ‘was’ because that’s diminishing the spirit that is still here,” Melanie said. “He is just a kind person and that kindness is going to live on through Kristy and through her kids and their grandkids.”