In one day, about 30 hours from when this post will be published, I, along with 707 other brave souls, will stand up on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center and not take a seat for another 46 hours.
I am the only person from my high school graduating class attending Penn State. When I go home on breaks, I fill my friends in on what has happened in the months since I last saw them and what great things my university has done. This past Christmas break, I told my friends that I would be dancing in THON. I explained to them what we raise money for, how we raise it and what I would be doing during the weekend of February 18-20.
They all thought it was a great cause and weren’t surprised that I involved myself with such an inspirational charity. But most added that it was crazy that I would be dancing for 46 hours, and they didn’t know how me or anyone else could do it. Even my parents, who I have talked to constantly about THON, still don’t understand.
This post, the last post that I write before fighting off soreness, tiredness and probably some mental instability this weekend, is for them.
Why do I THON? Why would I intentionally deprive myself of sleep and comfort to endure the physical, mental and emotional toils that I will encounter this weekend? Why would I forgo four weekends of the typical college life to stand out in freezing temperatures with a can in my hand collecting money for kids that I don’t even know?
To quote some of the speech I wrote for dancer elections for my organization this year:
The English poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of himself. Every man is a part of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less….. and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
We have grown, not only in monetary statistics or pages on an attendance sheet, but as a family that extends much farther than this room. And with that, one person’s accomplishment is everyone’s accomplishment. One exceptional canning trip is a success for all of us. One set of THONvelopes sent back is a return for all of us. And one clean bill of health from the doctor is a relief off of all of our shoulders.
I THON because cancer is a fight that no one person or family should go at alone. The monetary support that we can provide helps take a large burden off the families but the emotional support of being their for the families is just as, if not more, important. This weekend gives the families a vacation from not only their homes, but from the disease that is affecting their children.
Over three days, children become rock stars on stage and superheroes equipped with squirt guns, not kids afflicted with a deadly disease. It shows that they will not be labeled as a “sick kid” or take it sitting down. They are all fighters who have amazing lives yet to live. And I THON to make sure those lives are lived.
Why do I THON? Because even though all of these kids don’t measure up to my 6’2″ stature, I still look up to every single one of them. And at the end of those 46 hours, frankly, I still have it way too easy.