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Cancer survivor using music to heal and connect the nation

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Mark Ricotta

ROCKFORD (WREX) — When music is playing, Mark Ricotta isn't here anymore.

He's taken to a different world, a different universe when his record player starts to run.

"To go into that realm of music and fantasize that I am performing and it takes me out of the true reality for a while and that, for me, is kind of therapeutic," Ricotta said.

"I find that it gives me solace, peace and serenity."

The nirvana Ricotta is sent to when music plays helps him feel like his true self.

He can leave behind the world as we know it and the challenges it brings.

For Ricotta, that includes living with the effects of throat cancer.

"We started with surgery, then chemo, then radiation which almost killed me," Ricotta said.

"I spent six months in the hospital on and off and eventually, they declared the cancer had gone and now I'm 11 years in remission."

A cancer diagnosis does a lot for one's perspective.

For Ricotta, it allowed him to re-examine his purpose in life.

He sports a Master's Degree in marketing and he knew that needed to play a role in whatever project he took on next.

So five years ago, he made a move.

He took to Facebook and created the Rockford Vinyl and Music News page.

The purpose of the page is simple: to give people an outlet to share and indulge in all things music.

"I've always wanted to be a part of an organization that brings people together," Ricotta said .

"I want to bring people together to help them connected and find more love for each other and I can't think of a better interconnect than music."

Ricotta's thought process has held true.

The page has close to 5,000 followers from all over the country.

It's quite the load to keep the page's content fresh everyday which is a task Ricotta's fully thanks his team of administrators for.

He says without the work of Melissa Breen Smiley, Julie Peters Dennis, Randy Keho, Julie Girard and John George Jr., the success of the page wouldn't be possible.

"Our team comes together everyday, comes together out of love for the group and love of bringing people together," Ricotta said.

If you are interested in joining the page, you can search Rockford Vinyl and Music News on Facebook and request to join.

If you or anyone else you know is making an impact here at home like Mark, fill out a nomination form here or you can email

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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