The community mourns the loss of Stefanie Spielman, who passed away Nov. 19 at her Upper Arlington home at the age of 42.

The community mourns the loss of Stefanie Spielman, who passed away Nov. 19 at her Upper Arlington home at the age of 42.

The mother of four children was the wife of former Buckeye and NFL star Chris Spielman. She was also a longtime community activist who used her visibility to raise money and awareness for cancer research.

Spielman had battled cancer five times since 1998. She first learned she had breast cancer at age 30 while performing a self-exam. She underwent a mastectomy and was treated with chemotherapy.

While battling the disease, she established the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.

"I know there's a reason God gave me breast cancer, and I'm supposed to do something with it," Spielman said at the time.

Through speaking engagements and various fundraisers, the fund accumulated $6.5-million for breast-cancer research, education and patient assistance at Ohio State University's Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

The charity's fundraisers include Stefanie's Champions, an annual luncheon honoring six caregivers of Columbus-area cancer patients, as well as the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer, A Christmas to Cure Cancer and 100 other community events.

While garnering national attention for her fundraising and awareness-building, Spielman remained active in the local community. She was a founding member of the Upper Arlington Women's Club.

"She was an influence that guided the group through her dedication to giving back and giving forward to the community of Upper Arlington," said Robin Comfort, a UAWC member. Comfort is also a member of the board of education of Upper Arlington City Schools, where the Spielmans' four children attend school.

Stefanie Spielman hosted UAWC meetings at her house and spoke at the September 2008 meeting about her work with the James, Comfort said.

"Certainly she was a champion for breast cancer awareness and research, but she was a champion for women in general and mothers in particular," Comfort said. "She was a sterling individual who will continue to shine on in all of our lives. Whether one knew Stefanie a little or a lot, she left us all a remarkable legacy to love life."

In Spielman's honor, the UAWC has established the Stefanie Spielman Humanitarian Award. The prize will be presented annually with five other $1,000 awards that the UAWC presents each spring to high school seniors who are involved in the community.

"We're going to be looking for a student who has volunteered in a health care setting and who just demonstrates that spirit of giving like Stefanie," Comfort said.

UAWC members told Spielman earlier this month about the establishment of the award in her name and will invite her family to the awards ceremony next spring.

"It will be a reminder every spring of what kind of person she was and how much she gave to Columbus and to the James and to the community," Comfort said.

In a statement, Chris Spielman thanked the community for its ongoing support.

"Stefanie has gone home to be with the Lord. For that, we celebrate, but with broken hearts," he said. "I want to thank everyone for their support. Together, with your help, hopefully we made a difference in this fight."

The Spielmans, who celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary this year, met at a high school dance in their native Massillon. At one point, Chris Spielman -- a former All-America linebacker at Ohio State, 10-year veteran of the National Football League and current sports broadcaster for ESPN and 97.1 FM in Columbus -- shaved his head in a gesture of solidarity as she bravely endured chemotherapy treatments.

In March, her cancer returned for the fifth time, forcing her to miss the 2009 presentation of Stefanie's Champions. Her last major public appearance was in September, during a halftime ceremony at the OSU-Navy game honoring her husband's election to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Recently, Spielman watched her son Noah, an eighth-grader at Jones Middle School, perform the lead role of Troy in the school's fall production of "High School Musical" on Nov. 7 and 8.

As family and friends mourn her passing, Spielman's legacy endures.

The central Ohio chapter of the American Cancer Society issued a statement praising Spielman's tireless efforts:

"Through her courage, passion and leadership, Stefanie Spielman placed herself at the forefront of the battle against breast cancer. She faced this disease with unrelenting strength and poise. " She raised us all closer toward a cure. Her impact will be felt for generations."

Public calling hours took place Nov. 23 at the Longaberger Alumni House on the OSU campus. A private memorial service was scheduled for Nov. 24 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Marble Cliff.

In addition to her husband, Stefanie Spielman is survived by their four children, Madison, 15; Noah, 13; Macy, 8; and Audrey, 7, as well as her mother, Myra Belcher of Columbus; and sisters, Susan (William) Fitz of Upper Arlington, Sandy Belcher of Florida and Cindy Belcher of California. Her father, Richard Belcher, died in 1987.

cbournea@thisweeknews.com