What THON Means to THON Families

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With THON only two days away, volunteers are in overdrive working out the final details for the big weekend and hoping to raise more funds to add to the total that will be revealed during the culmination of a year’s worth of work. In order to give the THON community some motivation in the final stretch, we reached out to some Four Diamonds families to ask them what THON means to them. Here are their responses:

The Chase Kemberling Family, age 4

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What THON means to them: The day when you walk into the ER scared and worried your child is going to need surgery to remove his appendix. After hours of scans, x-rays and ultra sounds, the doctor pulls you into a room and tells you your son has cancer. The last thing you need to think about is the financial burdens, and only because of the Four Diamonds Fund, THON we can be there for Chase 110%. With Four Diamonds Fund, THON’s generous support for Pediatric Cancer research we come one step closer to finding a cure.

The Megan Eslinger Family, age 6

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What THON means to them: THON means happiness. It’s a time you can forget about all the worries of treatment and cancer and just have fun. Children with cancer lose part of their childhood during treatment and THON helps make up for that. The money that goes to the Four Diamonds Fund is a blessing. As a parent we can focus on helping our child through treatment and be there for them instead of worrying about how to pay for treatment and if we can afford this drug, etc. The Fund also supports some staff that are crucial to the wellbeing of the child and family. It’s hard to put into words how much THON and the Four Diamond Fund means to families with a child with cancer. It’s a true blessing and we are forever grateful. Megan went through 2+ years of treatment.  She has been off treatment for 3 years and is doing well.

The Jazmine Cope Family, earned her wings on November 26, 2010

What THON means to them: Jazmine was diagnosed and first hospitalized during THON weekend in 2010. Her one wish was to get to THON. She never physically made it there but we know that our family participating and going is keeping her dream of being there alive. We feel like she is all around us on THON weekend and that means the world to us!  FTK

The Colby Hoch Family, earned his wings at age 5

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What THON means to them: I think we have got to be one of the longest family/organization pairs at THON. We have been paired with Arnold Air Society since 1994, every year except one. That puts us at 19 years with the same org now. Our family has grown every year with this org, and we continue to stay in contact with many of them on Faceook. This is just one aspect of THON that is a blessing. Although we lost Colby in 1997, because of him our family has grown so much through our org. Being a part of the bereaved families group, we are all on different parts of our journey. Having had the ability to return to THON every year, and to have such a wonderful organization helped with the healing, and the bereaved journey. It’s been a blessing to have this organization in our lives, and I don’t know if anyone really realizes how important and how healing that is for families. That bond with our orgs, and the love we give each other keeps us coming back home to THON, to Colby.

The Alison Keim Family, age 7

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What THON means to them: We are very grateful to the Four Diamonds Fund and THON for all the support, both financial and emotional, the fabulous doctors and nurses they help employ, and the research they fund so that more kids will be cancer-free like Alison!

The Gabrielle Chapman Family, age 10:

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What THON means to them: We could never put into words how much THON and everything that they have done for our family into words. It’s astounding what these “kids” do for a perfect stranger and continue to do without ever knowing the impact. We know a lot of them have met families by this point but as a parent with a terminally ill child there is no words that truly describe how much we appreciate, admire, love, respect THON and everything it stands for to us. In the society we live in it’s hard to believe that people like this still exist, we are so very humbled and grateful that they do exist and we have been given the opportunity to meet them and they will forever be a part of our lives. God bless THON and every person who has every been a part of it. Sincerely, The Chapman Family. F.T.K.

The Ashley Fazekas Family, age 9

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What THON means to them: When we battled Ashley’s cancer, it was the worst time of our lives. We needed support to get us through…no one can do it on their own. THON not only provided the money to take the stress of medical bills away from us, but gave us a support system of other families that could understand. The friendships with the families, college students that participate, and doctors have been priceless to our family!

The Andy Family (last name and age omitted by request) 

What THON means to them: THON is the culmination of all our emotions and the source of our inspiration to continue to fight for Andy and all children affected by a childhood cancer.

The Noah Benner Family, age 9

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What THON means to them: THON is one weekend a year that we can forget about all of our problems and celebrate our son’s life. One weekend that we know there are other people around us that know how we feel. It is an atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm not felt anywhere else before!

The Elijah Schultz Family, age 6

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What THON means to them: THON means a chance to end pediatric cancer. It also helps us put a face to many of the people who worked hard to help us and all the other Four Diamonds Families. It feels like a celebration of life for us and future kids who’s lives may be saved thanks to students at Penn State. For that we will never be able to show how much we are thankful.

The Collin Kratzer Family, age 5

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What THON means to them: It is difficult to find words to describe THON weekend; there is no other experience like it. It’s amazing. It’s magical. It’s inspiring. You can feel the anticipation and excitement building as the dancers enter the BJC Friday night. The weekend is filled with overwhelming love and support for the children who have battled or are currently battling cancer, and their families. The energy in the building, all weekend long, is incredible. And because of the year long efforts of these incredible students, the families whose children are fighting cancer don’t have to worry about how they’ll pay for their child’s care. They can just focus on their child. What an amazing gift that is. THON is the rainbow in our storm cloud. THON is family. THON is hope. THON is love.

The Crystal Bryan Family, age 30

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What THON means to them: Im not sure it’s possible to answer the question What does THON mean to you, but I will try to put 18 years of growth and emotion into words. The constant support from the Hershey staff, Four Diamonds Fund and the Penn State students were the rock for my mother and I during my treatment from 1995-1998. Nothing could compare to the love and understanding that surrounds you in some of those darkest hours. As I grew up, the meaning and impact of THON became overly clear and touched a part of my heart that nothing else ever can and that nothing else could ever replace. Once I became a mother, the miracle of watching other families-parents and their children-gave me a new perceptive on what THON truly is and what this event and these students truly do for each and every one of them. From the lessons it has taught me in 18 years, the love it has given me, the family it has blessed with me, I couldn’t even begin to thank the Penn State community for that. There is no where else we would want to spend a February weekend but inside the BJC with our family on the floor and in the stands. FTK!

If you or a Four Diamonds family that you know would like to be included in this post, please e-mail [email protected]. We would love to tell their story.

Photo By: Bobby Chen

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Mara is a senior majoring in public relations with a minor in business. She is from Cranberry Twp., PA and enjoys blogging, cats, tweeting, and not wanting to graduate.

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