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THON, Four Diamonds Fundraising Partnership Continues To Develop And Thrive

42 years into their partnership, THON and the Four Diamonds Fund have developed into one of the premier fundraising power for childhood cancer research.

Four Diamonds co-founder Charles Millard said he always hoped that the fund started in honor of his late son Christopher would be able to have this sort of impact.

“It’s unbelievable where [THON] has gone in the 42 years we’ve been partnered,” Millard said at the pre-THON press conference. “When you start something you want it to be successful, but in reality, you can’t imagine that it would be what it is today.”

THON has raised at least $10 million for the Four Diamonds fund, the organization’s lone beneficiary, for six of the past seven years. Since the partnership started in 1977, THON’s raised more than $157 million in total.

For the Four Diamonds, it’s less about how much money has been raised through the years and more about the impact of it.

“To us, it’s not about the money. It’s about what that money does,” said Suzanne Graney, Four Diamonds executive director. “What does that allow to happen for a family? What service are we able to provide because those dollars are raised? How have we been able to grow a research operation at our hospital that is looking for why childhood cancer happens at all?”

The way they’ve come about raising those funds has changed over time, but more so recently.

Canning had a long-history attached to THON fundraising, but has been fazed out in the past few years due to the danger of students driving out of town. The 2018-19 school year was the first without a canning weekend.

Canvassing, which is similar to canning in the travel sense but involves door-to-door fundraising instead of standing on street corners, popped up as a major alternative. However, similar issues with students driving forced THON to cancel remaining out-of-town fundraising trips in November for the rest of the 2019 campaign.

Instead, THON is encouraging more creative fundraisers throughout the calendar year, like Club Cross Country’s 46-hour treadmill relay.

At the end of the day, THON organizations do more for those who suffer from childhood cancer than just raise money. They provide a good deal of support for the kids and their families, which is why everything leading up to this weekend truly matters.

“There was a patient who was at the end of life and I saw students from the organization that was paired with the family show up at the hospital and be part of a really dignified end of life,” Graney reminisced about a story that stood out to her.

“Coming into THON that year, that organization held up a blown up giraffe through the entire weekend and there was not a time I did not see that giraffe in the air. I didn’t understand what was the significance of the giraffe until the end of the weekend that giraffes were her favorite animal.”

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.

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