Penn State Student, Phi Mu THON Child Maddie Hill Passes On

The THON community suffered a tragic loss when Phi Mu THON child and Penn State student Maddie Hill passed away on Wednesday.

Hill passed away in the comfort of her Dover Township home. The 19-year-old fought three major battles with cancer over the course of 11 years, beginning after she was initially diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma in 2005.

She attended Penn State York where she served as an avid volunteer for THON, an organization that had already supported her fight against cancer for years. These past few days have shown that her impact on every community she was a part of was insurmountable.

“One of the most beautiful things about her was that she did not even realize the impact her fight had on others,” said Hannah Clark, a 2016 Penn State graduate and Phi Mu’s Family Relation Chair. “She made it a goal for herself to make it to THON 2016 no matter what it took, and she did it.”

Hill attended THON Weekend and took the stage during the Kid’s Fashion Show. Her enthusiasm brought fresh energy to an exhausted crowd and sparked smiles throughout the audience.

That weekend, Hill also met Emilia Dameshek, a seventh grader with whom Hill shared a strikingly similar diagnosis and treatment plan. Dameshek said Hill’s battle had inspired her to keep fighting since her own diagnosis three years prior, and the two connected instantly.

Penn State Student and Phi Mu THON Child Maddie Hill energizes the crowd during a THON Weekend performance (Photo: THON)
Penn State York Student and Phi Mu THON Child Maddie Hill (center) energizes the crowd during a THON Weekend 2016 performance. (Photo: THON)

“I remember holding back the tears when Emilia met Maddie and watching them talk like they had known each other for years,” Clark said. “After the Damesheks turned around and the line started moving to go onto the THON stage, Maddie turned to me and said, ‘That was so awkward. I’m definitely not an inspiration.’ In that moment, I saw everything Maddie was.” Dameshek passed away on May 19, 2016.

Hill had no shortage of her own close family members, friends, and community support by her side during her fight. Her energy and passion for life inspired those she met to persevere during obstacles in their own lives.

“Maddie was one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met,” said Kimberly Winters, a 2016 graduate and THON dancer for Phi Mu. “I was dancing for my sorority, and having Maddie there alongside cheering me on despite everything she was battling was just one example of how selfless she always was.”

Hill’s battle garnered an array of support, including the creation of the hashtag #FightLikeHill. Word of the popular slogan even spread to former Olympic soccer player Abby Wambach, who echoed the saying and sent words of encouragement to Hill in a video shoutout on Twitter.

“Huge, huge love is being sent your way,” Wambach said. “Fight like Hill always – what a cool thing to be fighting for.”

Even in her absence, Hill continues to provide a bright light for loved ones, and she’s been sparking fond memories from those fortunate enough to have known her.

“I still have the card [Maddie] made me hanging in my apartment from THON Weekend saying how proud she was of all of us dancers,” Winters said. “Maddie touched more lives and made more of an impact on myself and everyone she met than she’ll ever know, but I just hope she’s looking down at us smiling seeing how loved she is.”

For those interested, a “Celebration of Life” will take place in Hill’s honor Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Church of the Open Door, located on 8 Carlisle Court in York, PA.

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About the Author

Claire Fountas

Claire Fountas is the student life editor for Onward State, as well as a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and psychology. She lives in a suburb of Chicago and strongly disagrees with anyone who hates the Cubs or the Blackhawks (so, pretty much anyone at Penn State). You can follow her @ClaireFountas or email her at [email protected]

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