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Lottery Disappointment Leads IDC Couple To Deeper THON Appreciation

Senior Jeremy Diamond made it his goal to dance in THON in 2016 when he was a sophomore member of the Rules and Regulations Committee. His desire to dance hasn’t wavered throughout his time on campus, and he will participate in his third and final THON this weekend. His three years of working on committees, canning, organizing alternative fundraising, and supporting dancers will end when the total is revealed on Sunday afternoon.

But in his final THON, Diamond won’t be among the 707 dancers who will pack the Bryce Jordan Center floor on February 16. His dream of dancing did not come true. But he hasn’t lost his passion and love for THON, and remains enthusiastic for this year’s installment of the world’s largest student-run philanthropy event.

Diamond first joined a THON committee as a sophomore in 2016. He then worked on the Dancer Relations Committee at THON 2017, and was captivated by the atmosphere and energy he experienced while working on the Bryce Jordan Center floor. After hanging out with dancers and playing with THON children, he was hooked. His dancer came to him at the end of the weekend and thanked him for his support. She said she wouldn’t have been able to finish without his help and presence throughout the event.

“I wanted to dance because it’s the essence of what we are volunteering for,” Diamond said. “You get to experience all the effort and time that went into this cause and give back to it.”

Last year’s event was also important in Diamond’s THON journey because it allowed him to cross paths with Michael Jacunski.

“We met on our THON committee last year. He lost his younger brother to cancer who was a Four Diamonds child,” Diamond said. “It was the first time ever I’ve been able to feel that pain and heartbreak firsthand. The main reason I’m a part of THON is for the children, but also for their families.”

This year, Diamond joined the Special Events Committee because it is one of the few THON committees to allow members to be chosen as dancers. Everything seemed to be falling into place. He would still be involved in a THON committee, and the window of opportunity to dance was now open.

Diamond and his girlfriend, Sarah Hertenberger, then registered as an Independent Dancer Couple (IDC) and began their fundraising journey. Each year, THON gives students who are not affiliated with a specific organization the opportunity to enter a lottery for the chance to be picked to dance. IDCs must raise money in order to enter the lottery, and the more money they raise, the better their chances are of being chosen.

To be eligible for the lottery, IDCs must raise at least $2,800 to get one lottery ticket, and they receive an extra ticket for each additional $600 they raise. If an IDC’s names are drawn, the pair dances. Diamond and Hertenberger raised $7,252, giving them eight tickets in the lottery. Most of their donations came through social media and DonorDrive, THON’s new online fundraising platform. They reached out to their families, friends, coworkers, and even strangers, who greeted them with enthusiasm and generosity.

“It was surreal to see all these donations from all these people, some we didn’t even know. Everyone was thanking us for the work we were doing and appreciative of our involvement, but I felt like I should be thanking them. It was their money they were donating,” Diamond said.

On Thursday, January 25, the day of the lottery selection arrived. Diamond was determined not to let his nerves get the best of him.

“It’s out of my control,” he figured. “I can hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

He answered a phone call from Hertenberger, and from the tone of her voice he knew they weren’t among those picked to dance. Their names had not been selected.

Looking back, he admits his first reaction was selfish.

“I kept thinking that it was a waste. ‘I wasted my time. I wasted my efforts.’ I had a ‘me-first’ mind-set. ‘I wasn’t chosen in the lottery. Now, I’m not going to experience what it’s like to dance.’ My mindset was about me, and that was the wrong mind-set,” Diamond said.

“I just realize now, I was looking at it wrong. It’s not about me. At the end of the day, the money raised is for the Four Diamond families. It’s about them. I’m beyond proud of the dancers this year.”

On February 1, Diamond toured the BJC in preparation for THON with his committee. If he had been chosen as a dancer, he wouldn’t have been there. His disappointment was palpable.

But he soon thought about Michael Jacunski’s little brother — a boy at the beginning of his life, taken too soon. He remembered what’s important about THON. It’s not about being a dancer. It’s about the children and their families.

His disappointment quickly faded.

“I still get to be a part of THON, and I still get to be on a committee. THON is the greatest thing I know. I’m just grateful to be a part of it,” Diamond said.

Diamond’s final THON is not going to be what he hoped and planned for. He won’t stand for 46 hours, he won’t be a dancer on the floor of the BJC. But with THON now just hours away, it doesn’t seem to matter so much to him anymore. He’s just excited to help in any way that he can.

A few days before THON, Diamond couldn’t wait for the weekend.

There will always be that longing to dance at THON. There will always be the “what-ifs” and “if-onlys.” But any time one of those thoughts creeps into his mind, he thinks of what the THON lottery experience taught him.

“Although something may seem like a failure to you, it could be something great looking at the big picture,” he said.

When the final fundraising total is revealed Sunday, Diamond will be proud knowing that he and Hertenberger played a part.

“This cause is bigger than me,” he said. “It’s bigger than all of us.”

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About the Author

Jack Hargraves-Dix

Jack is a senior English major and Film Studies minor and a staff writer for Onward State. He is from Lawrenceville, NJ located just outside Princeton in the very real Central Jersey area. He loves classic rock and watching movies. He hopes to be a screenwriter one day but in the mean time he loves writing about Penn State. Email him at [email protected]

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