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Joe Battista: THON Weekend at Penn State Ice Rink Shows Spirit of Cooperation

by on January 18, 2012 6:00 AM

How about a dose of good news to start your day?

How about talking about how we as a university and community are overwhelmingly compassionate and caring people? How about talking about the largest student-run philanthropic activity in the country? 

THON.

It stands out as a singular word that describes the good that comes from a diverse group of people collaborating for a great cause.

For The Kids.

How many young cancer victims and their families have had an angel on their shoulders in the form of THON volunteers? How many smiles have the kids had when sharing time with their THON families and sponsors?

It’s one month until THON 2012 and it’s time to turn some of the anger, confusion and uncertainty of the last few months toward this noble cause that helps to heal children.

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This past Saturday, more than 550 people turned out for the annual THON Skate at the Penn State Ice Rink and helped raise $1,400 for the Four Diamond Funds. Kudos to Chris Whittemore, Sheri Cramer and the rest of the Penn State Ice Rink staff for their hard work “For the Kids.”

In addition, the Hockey Management Association, led by PSU senior and HMA President Staci Pawlak, did an outstanding job of organizing an auction and “skate with the Icers” that raised more than $1,000 in additional funds for Four Diamonds. Thanks to all the HMA volunteers.

Special thanks to men’s hockey booster club president Billie Willits and the volunteers from the booster club for making this year’s THON child, Colton, a happy young man who proudly wore his Icer jersey.

THON has special meaning to the Penn State hockey family. This year, a number of the Icers, led by senior Paul Daley, are carrying on a tradition and volunteering to work with the kids. The Icers will perform at athlete hour and spend time with Colton and his family to bring at least some temporary laughter into his life.

My own THON miracle is the story of Matt Seybert, who I have written about in previous columns. He is more than a cancer survivor. He is a role model and inspiration for anyone who wants to beat the odds. He didn’t just survive, he thrives on being able to accomplish things that people tell him he can’t do. He is a hero to me, to the Icer family and to the many cancer survivors who he has inspired over the years.

Matt is on winter break from his junior year as a computer science major at Lock Haven and came over to the rink with his family on Saturday to meet the new Icer coaches and the team. Matt walked into the locker room and spoke to the team with confidence and ease (this young man needs to be on the speaking circuit).

He told the team how important its time with the THON kids is and what it means to them and their families.  Then he walked out to center ice as calm as could be while he was introduced to the standing room-only crowd as a cancer survivor and longtime Icer fan, and he turned and gave the crowd a wave to its delight.

Then Matt dropped the ceremonial first puck of the game and was embraced by all the players before he walked off with a smile from ear to ear, his proud father Ron taking pictures and enjoying a special moment with the son he almost lost several times in the past decade.

Matt speaks from experience, as a number of my former players are like brothers with Matt, including Paul Crooker and Brendan and Dustin Martin. It was no strange coincidence that our Icer teams from 2000-03 won four-straight national titles. They had Matt as a role model for courage and toughness.

The Seyberts are a special family and great friends, and it is one of the great joys of my life to have met them and learned so much about perseverance and what a positive attitude can do for achieving your goals. I will continue to believe that Matt had a far greater influence on the Icer family than we did on him. 

So perhaps in this time of crisis and doubt in our community it is even more important to help THON achieve its goals. It needs us more than ever and we need it more than ever.

Afterall, it’s a simple proposition. It’s “For The Kids.”



From ice hockey to Intercollegiate Athletics and Smeal, Joe has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. Battista was influential in the effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. After a 2-year stint as VP of Hockey and Business administration for the Buffalo Sabres, “JoeBa” returned home to start “PRAGMATIC Passion”, LLC Consulting. Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 &’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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