Editorial: THON raises money and hope for cancer cure
Cancer is scary.
It is a dark monster that steals joy and causes pain. It takes away people we love.
It is no reason to dance. Except at Penn State. Except during THON.
The largest student-run philanthropy in the world, the annual dance marathon to raise money to battle pediatric cancer is more than just its three days of nonstop music and activity.
It is college students whose lives have been touched by cancer finding a way to make other lives better.
It is kids who had cancer choosing to attend Penn State in part so they can help other kids fight through their own medical monsters.
It is the annual February event, culminating Sunday, where the Bryce Jordan Center is filled to overflowing and a total is announced, but that is just the mountaintop. It sits atop a bedrock of planning and fundraising and holding the hands of sick kids and their terrified families and offering something more than the money brought in.
THON is hope.
Dancers and fundraisers come from across the Penn State campuses. They are from New Kensington and Beaver, Fayette and Greater Allegheny. They are from THON’s Greek system roots, and from other organizations. They are joined in a common purpose. They fight cancer.
College students can do stupid things. Fraternities and sororities can do stupid things. Penn State has certainly had its share of bad ink in recent years. But if there is just one thing each year where they all get it right, that’s THON.
And they are winning.
Emily Whitehead is a dark-haired pixie from the tiny borough of Philipsburg in Centre County. She shows that cancer can be beaten using HIV and her body’s own T-cells.
Her leukemia was defeated almost seven years ago by doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and her THON family and the Four Diamonds Foundation were there with them every step of the way.
But she isn’t the only story. Some have cancer in the rear-view mirror. Some are still fighting. For others, the fight has ended.
THON never stops, though, because the fight against pediatric cancer still rages on.
Some day it will end, the Penn State students say, and when it does, they will celebrate. Until then, they dance for a cure.