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Please help us raise a RECORD amount to help ensure that one day we dance in celebration of a cure for pediatric cancer.
Throughout my tenure at Penn State University, I have been EXTREMELY fortunate in having some of the best experiences offered to any student at the school. Having served as the sole Nittany Lion mascot for the past three years has enabled me to travel to places I’ve never gone, experience environments I never would have, meet incredible fans and alumni, but most importantly impact the lives of families who are affected by pediatric cancer.
Every year, Penn State students engage in a yearlong fundraising and awareness campaign committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer. Since 1977, student volunteers, alumni, and supporters have worked tirelessly so that no family sees a bill and can focus on being by their child’s side. To date, THON has raised more than $168 million for our sole beneficiary, Four Diamonds at Penn State Children’s Hospital. Last year alone, THON raised more than $10 million For The Kids™. We are proud of the fact that over 95¢ of every $1 contributed will directly provide emotional and financial support to more than 4,000 Four Diamonds children and families affected by childhood cancer, in addition to funding critical research with a global impact.
The efforts culminate in a 46-hour no-sitting no-sleeping dance marathon which has been the highlight of my year every year since I was a freshman. During my freshman year, I stood in the stands of the Bryce Jordan Center for 40 out of 46 hours. Since then, my THON experience has been as the Lion, and I have stayed 42 and 46 hours in the past 2 years respectively. However, this year my goal is bigger. My best friend (and Penn State Mic Man) Eric Gaspich and I have set a goal for ourselves to dance all 46 hours of our final THON. This will also be my final event as the Nittany Lion.
We cannot do it without your help. Dancers are selected based on a lottery system where your chances are proportional to the amount of money you raise. Please help us raise more than anyone ever has. We want to leave a legacy greater than our public-facing roles at Penn State. We want to leave an impact on the lives of countless families through THON. Please consider joining us in the fight against childhood cancer today by making a gift to THON in the name of Zachary Sowa & Eric Gaspich (Org. # 2450) You can donate online at donate.THON.org/participant/NittanyLion or make a check payable to the “Penn State Dance Marathon” with Org # 2450 in the memo.
On February 21st, we will take a stance through our 46-hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon to show the world what cancer cannot do.
If you are still unsure, I have included an anecdote about my previous impact on THON families.
For context, many THON families are paired with student organizations that raise money for THON, and the family I talk about in this story is paired with the Lionettes Dance Team who I work very closely with as the Lion. Their 2-year-old daughter Shiloh has Leukemia and has become a dear friend of the Lion.
THON Basketball 2019
During pregame excitement, the Lion usually gets in the center of the basketball court while the jumbotron blasts music and plays thrilling highlight reels. At the THON Basketball game this past year, I ran onto the court, but quickly noticed that Shiloh was at the game, so I ran over to her, gave her a big hug, and when she hesitated to let go, I decided to carry her onto the court to dance with me that day. As I danced with her in my arms, Shiloh’s smile lit up the arena.
After the game, I changed out of the costume and went to talk to Shiloh’s parents for the first time. They expressed endless gratitude and told me how much the Lion’s friendship meant to Shiloh. They told me that whenever Shiloh would resist taking her medication, they would eventually convince her to take it by telling her “the Lion will be proud of you!”
That particular morning, Shiloh was especially resistant. She was so upset about taking her medicine that she ran away and hid in her room. After waiting around for a while and feeling helpless, Shiloh’s mom noticed that the medication she had set out for Shiloh was gone. As she looked up, she saw her daughter and asked “Shiloh, what did you do?!”
Shiloh responded, “The Lion is going to be so proud of me when I see him later.”
Growing up is a beautiful thing. Let’s fight for it.