The legacy of kindness, compassion and love embodied by Dawn Morden — mother, pianist, teacher and founder of the Brian Morden Foundation — won’t fade any time soon.
Morden, after a 10-month battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, died on Saturday June 4 at the age of 65.
“I have never met a more caring, generous, generous and supportive person in my life” said Cathy Chirdon, close friend and secretary of the BMF. “We will miss her very, very much.”
Originally from Altoona, Morden is perhaps best known for her work raising awareness of childhood cancer and supporting local families facing a diagnosis of childhood cancer through the Brian Morden Foundation – a non-profit organization established in the honor of his son, Brian Morden, who passed away from Ewing’s sarcoma on February 15, 2003, at the age of 19.
“She was so passionate about sharing awareness and helping people with childhood cancer,” said BMF Vice President Barb Piper. “It wasn’t her whole life, but it was behind everything she did.”
Chirdon and Piper both knew Morden through their own personal tragedies. Chirdon’s granddaughter, Kiera, was undergoing cancer treatment when she found out about the foundation.
When Morden found out that Kiera was battling cancer, “She immediately wanted to help. That’s how she was with all the kids. Chirdon said.
Piper knew Morden and was involved with the foundation before her own son died of cancer aged 30. It was through this work that Piper was able to recognize her son’s symptoms prior to his diagnosis.
“The words just feel so inadequate, it just feels like there’s so much more to say, but I don’t have the words to express how special she was,” Piper said.
Through the foundation, Morden has helped families struggling with childhood cancer by giving out gas cards to travel to children’s hospitals in Pittsburgh, Hershey and Danville. Additionally, the foundation helps families pay for expenses during hotel stays and even helped one family with a rental car when their car wasn’t good enough to transport the child to another state to get there. to be cured.
“Dawn has been a huge support. She went through this with her child, Brian, who passed away.” so she knew what families needed, Chirdon said.
Morden played organ at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Duncansville while Piper was in the choir.
An avid music lover, Morden was also the church’s musical director, said her sister, Lisa Cronin.
“Some have described her as having a heart as big as an ocean,” she says.
That heart no doubt helped her during her teaching career with the Altoona Area School District, where she worked until about five years ago, Cronin said.
First an elementary school teacher, then a gifted support specialist, Morden completed her tenure with the district as a KIND teacher, a program for students to help them recover their credits and ultimately lead them to graduation. , said district community relations director Paula Foreman.
Morden has also established two categories of scholarships with the district through the foundation, one for cancer survivors and another for anyone interested in the medical field or music – one of Morden’s passions. his son, Cronin said.
When she wasn’t teaching, creating music, or doing foundation work, Morden loved to travel. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Morden traveled to Singapore and Vietnam with her son Jamin.
She also enjoyed driving around Altoona with her beloved border collie-Brittany spaniel mix Meggie.
“Dawn loved taking her for car rides and taking her everywhere she went,” Cronin said, adding that Meggie is now living with her.
Morden’s family is planning a celebration of life in his honor for July 1 at 2 p.m. at Duncansville Evangelical Church. There will then be a service with a light reception where mourners will have the opportunity to come together, share stories and support each other, Cronin said.
Morden’s passing leaves no one to lead the Brian Morden Foundation.
Although family members take over, they are not local, with Cronin living in Harrisburg and Jamin living in Maryland. However, Cronin is sure the foundation will continue to some degree.
“It really takes a lot of time and dedication,” Cronin said. “It’s too early to tell what will happen.”
Mirror Staff Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.