Northwestern Press

Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Bern and Kara Leibensperger are using a hike along the Appalachian Trail to help raise funds for never-smoker cancer research. The flowers were Bern Leibensperger’s Mother’s Day gift. Bern and Kara Leibensperger are using a hike along the Appalachian Trail to help raise funds for never-smoker cancer research. The flowers were Bern Leibensperger’s Mother’s Day gift.

Two hike to benefit cancer research

Thursday, May 16, 2019 by Elsa Kerschner ekerschner@tnonline.com in Local News

Kara and Bern Leibensperger of Kempton are on a crusade to benefit research in the cause of never-smoker lung cancer.

They became interested in it after meeting Margie Clapper, a researcher at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Janet Plasha, Bern Leibensperger’s sister-in-law, developed another form of lung cancer, involving the anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene (ALK) from which she has since died. Her husband is Bruce and they had two children.

The Leibensperger women had been walking the Appalachian Trail a piece at a time and covered 600 miles.

When Kara decided to do the hikes during her time off in summer from her English as a Second Language teaching job at Reading School District, it was for a break from work.

Bern Leibensperger would not let her go alone so it became a two-person vacation dedicated this year as Team Free to Breathe.

“It’s teamwork. We help each other out and share the responsibilities,” said Bern Leibensperger.

This year a friend is accompanying them.

“It was mom’s (Bern Leibensperger’s) idea to use the hikes to spread awareness of fundraising for cancer and specifically for never-smoker cancer,” Kara said. “It is the seventh leading cause of cancer death worldwide and is reaching epidemic proportions especially among women.”

Clapper says there may be a link with estrogen and has made that possibility a big part of her research.

“I had the opportunity to tour the lab,” Bern said. “We raised $2,226 and our goal when this summer’s hike is included will be $4,000.”

They will be starting in Virginia and hope to do 150 miles in 10 days. They carry hammocks for the days they are not near a hostel.

They have used Facebook, written some letters and check with some organizations that might be friendly to the idea.

“Janet loved the outdoors and was a hunter. Being on the trail would be a good way to honor her,” said Kara.

Bern Leibensperger is a hairdresser at Kutztown Family Hair Studio and is able to take an extended vacation.

“Raising awareness is why we do this,” she said.

“It was too late for Janet but hopefully someone will benefit from this in the future.”

If you see them on the trail you will know who they are since Fox Chase gave them small towels with Fox Chase Cancer Center on them. The towels will be carried on their backpacks.

The center was one of the first hospitals designated as a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Bern Leibensperger’s trail name is Yardsale and Kara’s is Sidewinder.They are keeping a journal at trailjournal.com.

Fundraising information can be found at bit.ly/2JuZnfS.