The Carrano’s Return to THON: Parent-to-Parent Support

While it was chance that crossed my path with that of John Carrano’s, John is by no means unheard of within the THON community, nor is his famous jacket that he sports each THON Weekend. For the unfamiliar, John’s jacket exudes that authentic retro vibe (not hipster retro), sporting a block-lettered Penn State logo, an embroidered Nittany Lion patch, and the years (last two numbers) and themes of every THON year from 1995 to 2012’s “Brighten Every Journey.”

Spotting the jacket in Happy Valley one day, John immediately knew it was a keeper, and quickly set to turn it into a THON masterpiece. “I wear it to share it with everybody. Is it hot? Yeah, but I should be able to take a little heat when these are students are on their feet the whole time and these children are going through these treatments,” John said.

John, and his wife, Irene, attended their first THON in 1995, after their 7-year-old daughter, Lauren, was diagnosed with leukemia. Lauren, and her brother Vincent, joined their parents for the weekend; one that none of them would ever forget. When John and his family made the trek to THON 1996, Lauren, accompanied by her mother, remained in the hospital, until she passed about a week later.

“Lauren had one year [with THON], but she loved it more than Christmas,” John said.

However, Lauren’s passing did not mark the end of the Carrano’s role in THON. They continued to attend each year until 2005. John explained that through those ten years, his family learned to adjust to the loss of their loved daughter and sister. THON provided a sanctuary, where the parents could let their son roam free for two days without worry, all gradually reclaiming their grip on family.

“My family is together because of THON, because of the students. We owe so much to this great cause. I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t have THON,” John said.

When THON Weekend 2005 came about, the Carrano’s decided that it was time to make room for new families to receive the love of which they had blessed with for so long. Plus, Vincent, and their daughter Ashley, who had grown significantly, were involved with sports and other activities that demanded their immediate attention.

That is, until last year, when Vincent and Ashley decided it was time to return, attending THON Weekend 2011.

Vincent, having finished his tour as a Marine, enrolled at Penn State Schuylkill in August of 2011 and quickly spread his passion for THON to his commonwealth campus. Whereas the campus raised $5,300 last year, they almost quintupled their total this year, raising about $29,600.

“I don’t know if he went in with any military tactics, but he motivated them,” John said with a chuckle.

Further, Vincent is one of the 2012 THON dancers, and will do us the great honor by speaking during this year’s Family Hour.

John reminisced on the struggle of having to tell his children that their sister had died. “It’s tough for little kids. It’s tough tell them their sister wasn’t coming home; that she was in heaven,” John said.

Yet, John soon learned that it would be his children who stepped out for their parents, returning to give back to the family that had provided them shelter.

“I am so proud of my son and my daughter; how they came out unscathed,” John said.

And John has seen it fit to take on a responsibility equal to that of his children. “My job is to help the parents that are hard to help,” he said. He knows where they had been. So, who better to help them get through the times that he survived with the help of others than him?


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About the Author

Ryan Kristobak

Hailing from Lebanon, PA, I am a senior majoring in print journalism. Things I enjoy include lovesacs, denim, mullets, Fight Milk, Jonny Moseley, and "hang in there" kitten posters. Things that bother me include "fun" sized candy bars (not fun), fish, shoobies, wet door knobs, baby leashes, and Jake Lloyd.

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