I had the opportunity to dance in THON 2012 this past weekend. For those who didn’t see our post on Friday, I did so in memory of my uncle, Mark Tecce, who passed away at age five from a rare form of cancer. This is what I want to tell him about my experience.
Dear Uncle Mark,
You never got the chance to meet me, but I’m your nephew, John. I am the son of your older brother, Michael, and his wonderful wife, Eileen, who you would have gone to high school with. Unfortunately, I don’t know too much about you, but I know that we would have had a great relationship had we gotten the chance.
I am currently a senior at Penn State University, a school that you would have grown up rooting for just like your older brother did. I love it here, and I think you’d be proud of how much I’ve managed to accomplish during my time in Happy Valley. Some of my proudest accomplishments involve THON, which helps raise money for kids like you and families like yours, families like ours. This past weekend, after months of fundraising and years of work to allow myself to be selected to, I spent 46 hours straight awake and on my feet as a dancer in THON 2012. We raised a record $10.6 million For The Kids this year, and we couldn’t be prouder.
I dedicated my THON 2012 experience to you, Uncle Mark. I wrote your initials on my headband and sweatband and I thought of you the entire time, especially when I felt myself struggling. I had a rough few hours on Sunday morning, but seeing a reminder of why I THON (that’s you!) hanging on a curtain along with the reasons the other 700+ dancers THON gave me strength to push on. I know that the pain you experienced during your year of treatments, which your dad and sister told me you never once complained about, must have been much worse than the few hours of pain that I felt.
Through your family, I got to know you better than ever before over the course of this past weekend. Your sisters told me how sweet you were, your father proudly wrote of your bravery, and your brother continued to express how important you were to him. Your mother even sent me some pictures of you, some of them including speech bubbles filled in with funny quotes (yes, she still does that).
I also got to know you through what I saw and felt this weekend. You existed in every Four Diamonds kid I saw, kids you have so much in common with, who spent their weekend away from hospitals and treatments to squirt us with water guns and play games with us. You existed in every line dance I danced, every piece of dancer mail I received (and there was a lot ), and every time I laughed, cried, smiled, hugged, danced, and felt loved. And, perhaps most importantly, you existed in the amazing support I received from your brother, his wife, and from your niece, Lauren, who will continue to THON for you after I graduate this spring.
Just months before you passed away, a man named Joe Paterno took over as the head coach of Penn State’s football team. He would become a legend and icon at Penn State over the next few decades. Coach Paterno recently passed away, but one of the lessons he left behind was that we should all strive to “make an impact.” Shortly after what would have been your 50th birthday, Uncle Mark, your impact on my life showed as I danced for 46 amazing hours. I hope the impact that I made for the Four Diamonds kids lasts as long as the impact you’ve made on all of those you knew.
THON 2012’s theme encouraged us to Brighten Every Journey for the kids that we raise money for. From what I’ve heard, you brightened the journey of your parents and siblings in your short time with them, and you’ve inspired me to make sure that kids like you will have the opportunity to do so as well.
I hope I did you proud this weekend, Uncle Mark.