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Four Diamonds Families Discuss Their First THON

Every year, more and more families affected by cancer become Four Diamonds families. Just the same, more and more of these families join the Adopt-a-Family Program, which allows Four Diamonds families to be paired with a Penn State student organization for the year to the family emotional support through their tough times and provides students the opportunity to get to know a Four Diamonds family.

Below are just a few of the new families who came to THON this year, and what they thought after walking into the BJC for their very first time as a Four Diamonds family with their brand-new org.

WE ARE… The Jay Dawson Family


Our org is… Ohana

Our first THON was… everything we imagined plus more! We definitely had a lot of fun. I told everyone I made contact with the next day about our experience, even my students! My son Jay’s face was priceless as we walked onto the floor of the BJC for the first time. The warm welcome from the whole community was evident. I appreciate everyone’s patience and extra time put aside just for him this weekend.

The highlight from Jay’s weekend was definitely the water gun battles. Jay would ask for any water gun he saw anyone holding. Everyone was so quick to give him his or her gun without any question. I wanted this weekend for him, no matter how frustrated he made me. He is still talking about it. I unpacked our bags when we got home, and he shouted “Ohana!” once he saw the THON logo.

Thank you to the wonderful dancers who still smiled and accepted the squirts of water from my little man up until at least hour 44. We made memories that will last a lifetime! You ALL are truly making a difference in his life. We want to pass on TO EVERYONE our sincere thanks for their patience, acceptance, and open arms to Jay and our family. We are already looking forward to next year! — Tiffany Dawson, Mom

WE ARE… The Ashley Otstott Family


Our org is… Tetra

Our first THON was… absolutely amazing. TETRA is so kind and caring, and we are so glad we got paired with such an awesome org! They are so passionate about helping kids like me fight cancer, and we are so proud of all the money they raised for THON 2014! We’ve made so many memories together already and we look forward to making many more in the future. We really couldn’t have asked for a better org! They made our first THON together as one big family amazing. I think of all of them as my big brothers and sisters! This was our 13th THON, but our first with Tetra and the best THON yet! — Ashley Otstott

WE ARE… The Tommy Coykendall Family


Our org is… Students Engaging Students

Our first THON was… amazing. When we were heading down to Penn State for THON, I didn’t know what to expect. Was it this? Was it that?  When we got there and went to the floor, it was crowded and I didn’t know what to expect. The days went faster as they went on. The Final Four is a great time and experience, and time to let your feelings out. The cover band was very good and interactive with everybody when they were on stage.  
When I look back at my THON experience, I will never forget the Line Dance. It has been in my head since I left. I want to say the students should be very proud of themselves for making it amazing, and for the dedication of the dancers who put in the 46 hours of pain to say it was worth it. — Tommy Coykendall,  
Age 13

I thought THON was awesome. It was a great experience. I saw a lot of people. I had a swell time. It’s great seeing all those dancers on the floor. I saw a lot of water gun fights. The best part was hanging out on the floor and the stands. — Hailey Coykendall, Age 9

When I think of THON Weekend, I think of cancer. People trying to fight it and trying hard to beat it. I think of Tommy ‘cause he has cancer. I think it hurts to have it, and hope it never comes back and he stays healthy. I liked shooting water guns, the line Dance, the music, and had fun going to our hotel room and having a surprise when we got there. I liked the people in our group, and people supporting the dancers and happy to be there for two days. I’m looking forward to next year. — Brianna Coykendall, Age 6

Attending THON for my family and I has truly opened my eyes to one of the greatest emotional events ever attended. The tremendous spirit, happiness, and ache experienced with our THON PSU family showed this was more than a dance, rather it was the greatest party of all, celebrating yearlong efforts to benefit children that have been affected by cancer. — Dave Coykendall, Dad

I think it is amazing that 15-16,000 students come together to raise money, give their love and support and dedication to all the families. The vibe from when you first walk in to the time you leave stays the same or gets better with time. Everyone had a blast from the water gun fights to the Line Dance, Pep Rally, numerous activities, live bands and just hanging out with the dancers and people in the stands was truly an amazing experience. 
We are Penn State. FTK! — Patti Coykendall, Mom

WE ARE… The Calli Silbaugh Family


Our org is… Springfield

Our first THON was… almost indescribable. People ask us, “how did you do it?” Eleanor Roosevelt said, “I just did what I had to do as things came along.” We have to live each day to the fullest, because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. One day, you are in the pool at the Y. The next, you’re in the ER at Hershey Med hearing that your child has a brain tumor.

We are told how amazing and strong we are, and it is very much appreciated, as it has been quite the fight. We “did the dance” because we had to; there wasn’t a choice. You are doing it because you want to, to support so many children you don’t know, giving of yourself freely. Tat is unbelievably amazing, and we cannot thank you enough.

So many people have blessed us in our journey. We count you in that group, twice!

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About the Author

Amber Kloper

Amber is a first-generation Penn Stater--class of 2016--studying broadcast journalism and business. She likes THON and traveling and reading and writing and music and words and rambling.


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