Two years ago, doctors told 13 year old Mark Schoenstein that he would probably never walk again.
“It’s hard to believe the high-spirited sophomore fidgeting as he talks excitedly is the same boy who not so long ago wore a lopsided smile and was confined to a wheelchair,” says his teacher Jessica Cullen, who encouraged him to start his charity.
“I thought I was in a bad situation, but then you see someone battling cancer or someone with a burn … ” he said. “I figured if I could do anything, if I could just be somewhat of a reason for a smile or a happy thought … it really helped me grow up a little.”
Mark was on winter break in Vermont in 2009 when he suddenly became ill with a fever.
The episode was a full-fledged viral attack on his body, leading doctors to believe he had the beginning stages of multiple sclerosis, which affects the ability of nerve cells in the brain to communicate with nerve cells in the spinal cord.
Mark, who lives with his parents and two siblings, hosting a fund-raiser walk-a-thon, 22 May, for the kids at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, Westchester, where he spent three months as a patient and another two months in rehabilitation.
Doctors didn’t know where the “freak” illness came from or how long it might take for Mark to recover, said his physical therapist.
All they knew was that Mark was determined not to stay in a wheelchair. He recovered in about six months.
He started at Salesian High New Rochelle last year – a school his parents can barely afford.
Lat year, 23 May, some 20 students from Salesian High School joined Mark who spearheaded the fundraising efforts for his school. They raised nearly $1,500 for Blythedale Hospital.
This year, with a five kilometer walk-a-thon Mark and friends hope to raise double of last year.