My journey began in 2014 when I attended THON Weekend for the very first time. My sister was a dancer that year, standing for forty-six hours in solidarity with families fighting childhood cancer. Somewhere between stepping onto the floor, attempting to do the line dance, and washing her hair in a bathroom sink, I felt a sense of community like I never had before. The mission was clear and the energy was palpable yet I was still in awe: how and why had thousands of strangers gathered in the middle of the night to dance?
Fast forward six years, and I now have the privilege and opportunity to serve as the Executive Director for THON 2021. Since coming to Penn State, being a THON volunteer has been a life-changing experience. I finally now realize what I did not understand during that first visit to the Bryce Jordan Center. I have come to recognize, know, and appreciate the impact this organization has on everyone it reaches. One of the most incredible things about THON are the relationships it helps to foster. People who would have likely never otherwise crossed paths quickly become lifelong families rooted in a common purpose.
In these past six years, I have also watched THON change. The organization has grown and evolved into something so new and increasingly beautiful right before my eyes. Along the way there has been no shortage of incredible stories to share, but there have also been many moments of challenge, too.
I know though deep down that when a people work together, we are collectively stronger than any of our obstacles: 11,696,942.38 times stronger to be exact. That is a figure that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Not only because of the financial impact that this sum of money will have on childhood cancer care and research, but also because of what this number tangibly represents — that even after nearly fifty years, the THON Community is still as passionate as ever.
THON is so much more than just an event every February. No matter the time, location, or circumstance, this community will continue the fight until no parent ever hears the words, "your child has cancer". We will stand with our families through both their victories and their challenges. We will continue to dance in the middle of the night until the day that we are dancing in celebration.
Thank you for your support of THON. Childhood is a beautiful thing and we are fighting for it.