Emotions flow at THON
I’m still in shock. Thirteen million dollars for the families. Thirteen million dollars to fight pediatric cancer. Thirteen million dollars for the kids.
The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon broke yet another record, raising almost $1 million more than last year’s total of $12,374,034.46. And I’m so proud I can say that I had a hand in that.
In my four years at Penn State, THON has raised more than $45 million for the Four Diamonds Fund. That’s more money than I can even comprehend. Every year I’ve stood in the Bryce Jordan Center and watched the executive committee slowly raise each number of that year’s total. And every single year tears have streamed down my face as we’ve continued to raise more and more.
But watching the total reveal at the end of the weekend and seeing how much money we’ve raised isn’t what THON is all about. THON is about the memories you create and the differences you make in the lives of the children and families of the Four Diamonds Fund. THON is about putting a smile on a child’s face, not by giving them money, but by being there for them when they really need you.
To say the least this was once again a weekend I will never forget. And while every single dancer, volunteer, family member and child helped make this weekend unforgettable, there was one little girl who made my weekend with one simple gesture.
Her name was Mya and she was this cute little girl with enough sass and attitude to overpower a high school cheerleading squad. My committee and I met Mya and her older sister during our last shift on the floor Saturday night when they decided to put together a makeshift soccer game, two boys versus 10 girls. To say the least, it didn’t work out.
But that didn’t stop us from instantly creating a bond with these two little girls. Mya’s sister became attached to one of my committee members, and while they were off playing, Mya hung back and played with the rest of us.
For a few minutes I had Mya to myself. I crouched at eye level with her and we talked. She told me her name and showed me where the Nittany Lion had signed her shirt. She offered to autograph my shirt, too, but unfortunately we couldn’t find a marker. She told me that she used to be a cheerleader and proved to me that she could do a split. She smiled for picture after picture and struck a new pose with her hand on her hip for every single one, but it was when she complimented my earrings that she really changed my weekend.
“I like your earrings,” said Mya as she reached out and lightly touched the earrings dangling from my ears. “They’re really pretty.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I really like your necklace.”
Mya was wearing a red beaded necklace around her neck. The cheap, 50 cent necklaces you find sold in packs in a dollar store.
“Do you want it?” she asked me.
Of course I told her no. That it was her necklace and she should keep it. But still I thanked her and told her how sweet it was of her to offer.
Mya looked at me and smiled. She took the necklace off and placed it around my neck.
“I like to share,” she said. “You can have it.”
And instantly my eyes filled with tears. That necklace meant nothing to Mya. It was probably a necklace that she picked up off the ground or received from another dancer or volunteer. It had no significant emotional or material value, but to me that necklace was everything.
That necklace was a thank you. A thank you for playing with her and putting up with her sass. A thank you for taking pictures with her and giving her piggyback rides. A thank you for putting aside a weekend in our busy college schedules to make a difference in the lives of these children and families. A thank you for making her smile.
Mya has no idea what she gave me this weekend. She has no idea that I will never forget her. She has no idea that her necklace is currently hung on the post of my bed.
But it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t know that. What matters is that even though my four years with THON are over, THON will always be a part of my heart. I will continue to give and support the students who will continue to devote their time to this cause.
I will continue to fight for those who cannot. Today, we must battle pediatric cancer. But tomorrow we will dance. Whether tomorrow be in a week, a year or a decade, eventually we will dance in celebration.
Until then, we will stand for Mya, her sister, the Four Diamonds children and every other child affected by this terrible disease.