HUNTINGDON, Pa. (WTAJ) — After a friend and colleague was diagnosed with liver cancer, two Huntingdon County band directors will be walking to bring awareness to the cause.
Mark Morningstar touched the lives of music students throughout Huntingdon County, but at the end of 2021, he received a diagnosis that would bring some of his colleagues to make a call to action.
“Well, it all started December 14th,” Morningstar said. “I ended up in the hospital here and spent three days in the ICU at Penn Highlands here in town. Found out through the course of a CT scan and MRI that I had a couple of spots on my liver plus cirrhosis.”
It was stage three liver cancer. Morningstar has been trying to find a living donor match ever since.
“It’s just a matter of staying positive and waiting,” Morningstar said.
The former percussion instructor taught and mentored thousands of students, some of who have even gone into music education after learning from him.
“He was there for us when no one else could be there for us,” said Richard Kane, a former student of Morningstar and current Elementary Music Specialist at Huntingdon Area School District’s Southside Elementary.
As Kane was brainstorming ideas to be more active in the new year, he came up with the idea to walk 100,000 steps in one day.
“My wife said, “Well, why don’t you do it for a good reason?” and then of course, it clicked,” Kane said. “It was a no-brainer that we would do this for Mark.”
He tapped his brother-in-law and high school band director, Jordan Canner, to walk with him. Now, the two are gearing up to raise awareness for Mark’s diagnosis.
“Both of us immediately agreed that that’s what we need to do,” Canner said. “Walk for Mark and help, kind of raise awareness and help as a fundraiser because medical bills are expensive.”
The duo will take their first steps on June 14 at midnight, which is Mark’s birthday. The men plan to circle the borough at least ten times, walking around 54 miles.
“The big thing is raising awareness of live donors,” Canner said. “That you can be alive and donate a part of your liver.”
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While Morningstar is still looking for his match, he encourages anyone considering donating to do it.
“You can save somebody’s life and the person who gets diagnosed just like my case, doesn’t have to die,” Morningstar said. “If your heart tells you that you would like to do this, follow your heart.”
Members of the public and anyone wishing to make a difference may walk along for a portion of the walk or the entire 54 miles. You can sign up to walk here.
If you can`t walk along, community members are encouraged to make a donation to the Morningstar`s Liver Stars Go Fund Me. Walkers are encouraged to get donations for their participation.