At 5 years old, my family's life changed forever. While at the time I was truly too young to fully grasp the severity of the situation, I knew something was wrong when my mom told me that we needed to go to the hospital to see my cousin, Lexi. I remember running down the long corridors of the hospital and arriving at a hospital room to see my beautiful cousin hooked up to tons of machines with a frightened expression on her face. My parents took the time to explain to me that Lexi had been diagnosed with leukemia, a disease that I came to learn would test her strength, steal her beautiful curly locks, and, after a difficult course of treatment, a disease she would come to kick the crap out of.
Whenever I am asked who my greatest inspiration in life is, I can answer with no hesitation that it is Lexi. Lexi is undoubtedly one of the strongest and most determined people I've ever encountered in my life. She took her diagnosis at such a young age and never let it take her joy and free spirit away. Unfortunately, I have encountered many other cases in my life where cancer has taken away much more, stealing childhoods, smiles, and laughter.
Cancer is cruel. Cancer is unforgiving. And while every person diagnosed fights with every ounce of strength they have in them, it too often steals many beautiful lives from us. I was exposed to the villain that is cancer at such a young age that over the years, I have accumulated a lot of hatred and resentment toward it.
When I came to Penn State, I had heard about THON, but only enough to know that it was a 46-hour dance marathon that supported the Four Diamonds, an incredible foundation that covers 100% of all medical expenses related to cancer care for eligible families. After doing some research, my eyes were opened to one of the most remarkable student-body philanthropies in the world. THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, is committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer. Its year-long effort of fundraising culminates in a 46-hour, no sleeping, no sitting dance marathon in February. Since the beginning of THON, over 4,500 families have been helped, and with over $157,000,000 raised, no Four Diamonds family has or will continue to see a medical bill during their treatment at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
I immediately knew that I wanted to be a part of THON in some way. My freshman year, I joined the largest special interest organization at Penn State and was selected to be a Dancer Relations Committee Member whose role THON weekend is to ensure the physical and emotional support of the dancers on the floor. I absolutely fell in love with being a part of Dancer Relations and of THON in general, and from the minute I stepped into the BJC my first THON weekend, I was introduced to the true magic that THON provides these families. I fell so in love with THON and its mission that it has become a huge part of my life, and I've had the incredible opportunity to be on two additional Dancer Relations committees since my freshman year.
THON is without a doubt one of the most incredible events with one the most amazing cause I have had the opportunity to be a part of. Every volunteer that I have met that is either currently involved or has been in the past is so passionate about being there For The Kids and For The Cure. I mainly wanted to get involved in THON when I came to Penn State because I wanted to make a difference in the world and help the families and children who have been going through so much with cancer treatments, just as so many helped my cousin when she was going through treatment. Nothing in life makes me happier than being able to put a smile on someone else's face and to think that I can have an impact in such a huge and influential event is everything I ever dreamed of.
Every child deserves to live their best childhood and simply be a child. No child deserves to spend the time they should be exploring and playing and being carefree in a hospital bed. I THON because I want to give all children the childhood they deserve, because cancer cannot keep us from achieving our wildest dreams.