BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Zachary Noel is a lifelong resident of Altoona, Pennsylvania, and works as a fifth grade teacher at Juniata Gap Elementary. Now, he’s leaning on his communities support for strength as he battles kidney disease.
“It’s intense,” said Noel. “This past year it just kind of declined rapidly, to the point where I have very little kidney function left.”
His students and family know him for his humor and good spirits.
“Zach is high energy,” said Andrea Ketcham, Noel’s sister-in-law.
Kidney disease has made it difficult to keep up that energy. Noel said he visits doctors at least once a week, and takes almost 15 medications a day.
The worst, he said, is the fatigue.
“I want to be there for my daughter, and not be tired all the time, I want to be able to play with her and do everything, and be there for my students in the school year,” said Noel.
Noel and his wife, Kim, welcomed their first daughter earlier this year, and being an active father is a top priority.
Some good news, Noel was recently approved by UPMC Pittsburgh to be on the kidney transplant list.
“I’m just ready, I’m ready for it, it doesn’t scare me, I’m just ready to get started,” said Noel.
To help with the ongoing medical costs, a cornhole tournament will be held on Saturday, July 31 from noon to 8 p.m. at Legion Park in Hollidaysburg. Teams are $50, spectators are $10, kids are free… click here to register.
There will be food, drinks, music, 50/50s, and gift basket raffles. Plus, winners of the cornhole tournament will go home with $200, $100, or $50.
“People coming together to offer that sense of assistance is not only a way to defray some of those costs, but to really help him feel and know that he is not alone,” said Kelly Green, executive director of Help Hope Live, a non-profit behind medical fundraising campaigns.
“The support has been nonstop and it’s coming from every angle, I can’t go through a day without somebody telling me they wish me the best or asking me how I’m doing,” said Noel. “I came home a couple weeks ago and my grass was mowed.”
Noel said if you decide to donate a kidney, part of the event’s proceeds will go toward covering your medical bills and time off from work. It’s a gift that the Noel said he’ll be forever grateful for.
“I’m just ready to get back to normalcy, and, like I said, be there for the people that are there for me everyday,” said Noel.