THON weekend is like a dream in which you keep trying to close your eyes and go back to sleep in order to experience it over and over again. The overwhelming rush of emotions that are felt during THON weekend are unlike any other. There is love, joy, happiness and hope. Kids run around freely feeling youthful, energized and invincible. All of these emotions fill the Bryce Jordan Center and completely diminish any negativity that resides in the air.
At 6pm on Friday, February 21st, over 700 dancers stood to mark the beginning of the 46-hour journey they were about to embark on. The dancers on the floor represented each and every THON volunteer and the commitment to stand up and fight for the lives of children who can’t fight for themselves.
From meeting my committee in the upper bowl for their first shift to taking them on the floor for their last shift, the first 42 hours of THON flew by. When the kids had gone home for the night to get a good night’s sleep, I found inspiration in my committee members. Over four months of preparation through meetings, inspirational videos, and a whole lot of emails and Google docs, each and every person was ready to take on concessions, lost and found, sleep shifts and info booths (and all the crazy questions that were asked). How could this not make you want to push yourself to be the best you can be?
While every minute of THON 2014 has a special place in my heart, there were a few memories that I will never forget. My favorite was having the opportunity to perform our fall Children’s Show, Where The Wild Things Are, in the No Grown-Ups Allowed room with the Penn State Thespians. My Co-Chair Lauren and I have been looking forward to this ever since we were named Children’s Show Chairs back in April. The show certainly wasn’t glamorous or polished, but that was the fun of it. Watching the kids hop in the show mid-scene, or squirt the characters with a water gun during the middle of a line made every person in the room light up. Towards the end of the show, a little girl came over to me, sat right in my lap and laughed along with me as we watched the show together. The innocence and purity of all the kids, especially that little girl who sat with me, confirmed why I THON. Their smiles and laughter, as if there were no other care in the world, were inspiring. We say “For The Kids” all the time and when we do, this is what we mean. We must put aside our stresses and selflessly devote ourselves to the happiness of as many children as we can reach.
The weekend concluded with 4 hours filled with almost every emotion possible. There were tears from sadness, hope, joy, and empathy. I laughed, danced, cried, sang and most importantly soaked in every second. During family hour my feet ached and my eyes felt heavy but standing arm and arm with our Club Swim Four Diamonds Families made me forget about that. I stood tall with thousands of THON volunteers and supporters and cried as we celebrated the lives of children who lost their battle with cancer. As we sang the lyrics, “I believe there are angels among us,” it could not have been truer. Yes, the weekend is about celebrating the lives of the children who have survived or are battling this terrible disease but it’s also about remembering the children who lost their battle and doing everything we can to make that number smaller and smaller. The little angels among us inspire us, the survivors give us hope and the children battling cancer make us fight. This THON weekend was a visible reminder to redefine the possibilities because we have seen year after year how we achieve the seemingly impossible. I hope the human spirit and love felt during THON weekend fuels our fight for the next year because although the weekend is over, cancer still exists. There are still families who are in and out of the hospital for chemo treatments. There are still families who are mourning over the loss of a child. And there are still families who live with the constant fear of the cancer coming back. Until we find a cure for pediatric cancer we must continue to give our time and emotional support to any family and child in need. THON 2014 brought us 13,343,517 steps closer to a cure and 13,343,517 more reasons to keep fighting.
Feel free to check out my video recap: http://youtu.be/EwMu4_p9bZQ
To learn more visit thon.org!