MORGAN ZUCH

POTRAITS BY CHUN-LI 'KEN' HUANG

 
 
 
Morgan Zuch by Chun-Li Ken Huang.jpg
 

Morgan Zuch was diagnosed with leukemia when she was two and a half years old. In November 2000, her intense treatment caused her to completely stop walking, talking and eating.

In November 2015, Morgan signed the National Letter of Intent (NLI) to row on the Marist Women’s Division I Crew Team—exactly 15 years after the hardest time during her path in fighting, and conquering, cancer. “Going from that, to being a Division I athlete is crazy,” Morgan smiled, still showcasing the gratitude that her journey thus far has granted. “It was very emotional.”

 

‘TO GIVE PART OF THE CHILDHOOD BACK THAT CANCER TOOK AWAY’—Morgan got off of treatment at age 5, and was officially cured at age 10. She is now 19 years-old, and has worked hard to continue defining her mission to help other children going through the similar struggles. Through chemotherapy, many surgeries, and an array of serious side effects, Morgan’s childhood left her with great amounts of hardship—and a forced incentive to grow up a bit too fast.

“From ages 5 to 10, it was just about being so cautious with germs,” Morgan said. “Even now, I pick up anything going around really easily. We had to be very, very careful—and it was hard, because I was a kid.” Morgan and her family vowed to help as many children as possible to avoid shortchanging their childhoods because of the extreme cautions associated with cancer treatment.

Morgan’s parents took unique strides in helping them to conquer their battles with a little less pressure and emotional hardship. When Morgan was in kindergarten, her parents opened The Morgan Center, a nonprofit preschool specialized for children with cancer, in Hicksville, Long Island. “They opened it in my honor because of what I went through.”

Morgan spent most of her time during her childhood within the walls of a hospital room—as fears of outside exposure to germs were extremely serious. Her mother specifically noticed the levity of the implications of treatment when Morgan was in the hospital playroom, interacting with another child that was receiving treatment as well.

“My mom actually realized that this was okay, because we were in the same limited world,” Morgan said. Ever since, her parents went forward with their dreams of providing a service that is accommodating to children who exist in the same, “limited world,” as Morgan once did. “My mom envisioned it—and she and my dad put it into place. Now, we help a lot of kids, and it’s great.”

“My parents realized that I wasn’t getting to do the things that any normal child would do—I didn’t go to preschool, I didn’t go to the mall to see Santa. I didn’t do those little things.” The Morgan Center holds the constant mission to give the “little things,” to play a consistent role in childhood development, regardless of cancer’s limitations. Her mother tries her best to mimic the normalities of a regular preschool, with adding a great amount of precautions that she remembered were tough for Morgan to combat during her battle. “We make birthdays very special, because I never really celebrated during treatment,” Morgan said. “They wanted to give part of the childhood back that cancer was taking away.”

The Morgan Center helps to support childhood cancer patients from all over the New York City and Long Island regions. “There really isn’t anything like it,” Morgan said.

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Morgan Zuch's Childhood Image

“A lot of people ask me if I would change having cancer. No one wants it—but I am who I am because of it. Because of my battle, so many other kids are being helped through The Morgan Center. I think that’s really cool.”

Morgan’s family strives to give back the aspects of childhood that they never had, and to alleviate even the smallest burdens existing in the journey of battling cancer and its effects. “The parents stay, and they can all talk about what they’re going through. My mom never really had that—her friends didn’t really get it.”

Morgan is current sophomore at Marist studying Psychology/Special Education in order to greater contribute to The Morgan Center’s mission, and to “make a difference” in the lives of the children she lived through the shoes of throughout her past.

“I love to volunteer—it brings me so much joy, just seeing the kids and connecting with them,” Morgan said. “The kids and the parents kind of look up to me, because I went through what they’re going through now.”

 

COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY—At eight years-old, Morgan’s mission to give back to other struggling began—just three years after finishing treatment herself. She started a fundraiser to send The Morgan Center’s students to see a movie in a private environment. “I said to my mom, ‘Can these kids go to the movies?’ and she said, ‘No, but you should do something about it.’”

Morgan then worked with her elementary school to sell wristbands and pencils from The Morgan Center to make one of her many dreams for children with cancer to come true. “I love doing it, and my parents motivate me to keep going and do it more.”

Morgan’s innate desire to give back is widely recognized by her hometown community, as she was chosen as one of Newsday’s Extraordinary Seniors of Long Island in 2016. “They interviewed me and came to The Morgan Center, and watched a typical day,” she said. “It was an honor.” Morgan’s strength has also been recognized by News 12 Making a Difference for June 2016, AFLAC DuckPrints Award-for dedicated service to children battling cancer, NYS Senate Youth Leadership Recognition Award and The Cristin Ann Bambino Memorial Scholarship Award-NYSIR.

“It is a little tough to tell, but it makes me who I am,” Morgan said. “To be able to relate to those going through it—I believe that I am here to tell my story and inspire others.”

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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Morgan Zuch was diagnosed with Leukemia at two and a half years of age and was cured at age 10, and now, rows for the Marist Women's Division I Crew Team. In Morgan's honor, her parents created The Morgan Center, a non-profit preschool program for children with cancer. She is a sophomore psych. special ed. major at Marist from Long Island, NY, who aims to give back to children fighting cancer in working at The Morgan Center. She has been recongized for fighting her battle and giving back with The Morgan Center by Newsday’s Extraordinary Seniors of Long Island, News 12 Making a Difference for June 2016, and has been honored with many other awards.

When Morgan entered her freshman year in high school, her brother convinced her to tryout for the crew team—and never had expected to have earned a Division I athletic scholarship. With the passing of 15 years since some of the hardest times in Morgan’s childhood, she was beyond grateful to sign her letter of intent—a concrete symbol of the progress that she has made. “My teammates are really helpful, and they understand that I still have many side effects,” Morgan said. “I have to know my limits, more-so than everyone else.”

Her passion for fundraising extended through her years at Marist thus far—and readily infiltrated into her experience as a Division I athlete. Morgan brought the Go The Extra Mile campaign to her crew team at Marist, challenging them in their sport while fundraising for children with cancer. The national campaign started in 2015 and has raised over $63,000 to date and vast awareness across the country. “I really wanted to do something like the Ice Bucket Challenge for cancer,” Morgan said. “We have raised a lot of money from it.”

Morgan explained that her ability to process information was affected by the chemotherapy and treatment cycles. “I have a lot of challenges because of what I went through health-wise, and learning-wise, since the chemo affects the brain,” she said. “In middle school, I really struggled—but with proper accommodations and support I was able to do well.”

“I’ve always had to work extra hard in everything I do because of it—it’s hard, but it motivates me.”

Krista Ackert, Learning Specialist at the Office of Accommodations and Accessibility at Marist, has worked with Morgan for about two years now, as they have been meeting weekly since her first semester at Marist in 2016. “I have been fortunate enough to get to know Morgan as a kind person, a hard working student, and an involved member of our community,” she said. “I have had the opportunity to see Morgan as a responsible leader in organizations that she is involved in.”

Ackert mentioned Morgan’s involvement in the AIM (Achievement Involvement Mentorship) program has proven her to be a great role model for freshmen students on campus. “Her advice and commitment to fellow students has been a true testament to Morgan’s work ethic—she truly cares about others and wants to show that hard work and perseverance can bring positive results.”

Her innate commitment to mentorship has extended through Marist and at The Morgan Center, as she continues to prove that she longs to use her life experiences to constantly benefit the lives of others. Morgan has consistently put forth efforts to circle back the benefits of her own personal growth—and wants nothing more but to give those fruits back to others.

Through immense strength and ability to adapt and overcome all situations that she has been presented with thus far, Morgan continues to welcome greater opportunity for growth and knowledge every day. Her genuine commitment to service, and the joy she receives from the smile on each face at The Morgan Center, has driven her to greater heights of her goal of truly “making a difference.”

“A lot of people ask me if I would change having cancer. No one wants it—but I am who I am because of it. Because of my battle, so many other kids are being helped through The Morgan Center. I think that’s really cool.”

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