Family Hour A Culmination Of An Emotional, Empowering Weekend
Both the energy and spirits remain high in the BJC, but nothing has compared to the feeling in the air during Family Hour. Family Hour began at 1:00 p.m. with stories of former THON children, like Janae Holme, a 14 year old who is ten years cancer-free this month.
Following an inspirational presentation sharing stories like that of Holmes, James Franklin took the stage. He was holding back tears as he spoke, “this is emotional for me.” Franklin announced that he and his family will be making a $13,000 donation to THON. “If you want to talk about Penn State’s culture, look around.” His daughter, Shola, saved up in her piggybank to make a donation to THON. Franklin and his families dedication to both THON and the university is certainly unrivaled.
After the Franklins left the stage, Daniel Testa’s family took the stage. Testa’s father went through a list of “what THON is,” naming individuals who helped Daniel throughout his treatment. Among the list was Philadelphia 76er Nerlens Noel, who heard Daniel’s story and sent him an autograph. “THON is my son Daniel thinking that there is no other college to attend after high school than Penn State.”
Next, Josiah Graybill’s family took the stage and started by thanking their org, Tri-State THON. “The toughest part of Josiah’s treatment was seeing kids much sicker than Josiah was.” Graybill’s mother announced that Josiah has one more appopitment before he will be considered cured. She ended her speech by saying, “if I could, I would walk around the entire BJC and shake the hands of every student here.”
After, Four Diamond families walked across the stage, many hand in hand. Each was met with an especially loud applause from their organization in the BJC.
Next, Kayla Nakonechni’s family took the stage to share their story. Kayla graduated from Penn State in December 2014. On her first night at Penn State, Kayla called home to tell her parents she made the right decision in choosing Penn State. Fall semester of Kayla’s junior year, she made the decision to enter into THON as an independent dancer. “The day we received Kayla’s diagnosis… She showed amazing strength, and only cried when we cried.” Upon realizing she could not participate in THON, her mom said she immediately broke down and cried. Next, Kayla shared her story from her point of view. “Right now, the battle is not over… Recently, I started my third round of chemo,” she said. “I’ve learned valuable lessons at a very young from the experience of having cancer.” Kayla announced, despite her health setbacks, she will attend graduate school. “My life is still mine. it is not run by cancer.”
The final family speaker was Brandon Loose. “This is our 11th year at THON, our 7th without Brandon,” Loose’s mom said. Brandon was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in April of 2004. The Loose family was paired with the Blue and White Society. “THON 2005 was so overwhelming, we didn’t know we could go back,” Loose’s mom said. Brandon gained his angel wings in 2008. “We never received a medical bill,” Loose’s mom said. “We are so thankful for the Four Diamonds.”
“Penn State is THON. THON is Penn State,” Loose’s mom said, holding back tears.
Family Hour ended with “Celebration of Life,” a video honoring the lives of THON children who passed away. As the video played, organizations and families linked arms and swayed back and forth.
Audience members in the BJC both laugh and cried with the families that took the stage over the last hour. Thank you to all of the families for sharing your stories, and reminding everyone why we THON.