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Four Diamonds Co-Founder Charles Millard Dies At 93

Four Diamonds co-founder and THON icon Charles Millard died Thursday morning, according to Penn State Health.

Millard, 93, died from a brain injury sustained after falling hours earlier. Penn State said a memorial service for Millard will be planned and shared at a later date.

“Charles was humble, thoughtful, caring, and good-humored,” said Suzanne Graney, executive director of Four Diamonds. “He was a gentleman in every sense of the word. I cherish the wonderful memories I have of him. He and his family have inspired me throughout my time at Four Diamonds, and it is a privilege to continue the important work Charles and Irma began.”

Back in 1972, Millard and his wife, Irma, co-founded Four Diamonds following their son’s nearly three-year battle with cancer. The organization sought to help other families whose children were fighting cancer at what’s now Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. Four Diamonds ensures no family of pediatric cancer patients at the hospital receives a bill.

The name “Four Diamonds” originated from an essay Millard’s son, Christopher, wrote shortly before his death. In it, he told a story of a knight’s quest for four diamonds — courage, wisdom, honesty, and strength — needed to defeat an evildoer. The Millards say those characteristics were necessary to fight cancer, too.

In 1977, Four Diamonds became the beneficiary of THON’s proceeds, soon becoming the sole beneficiary for every THON since. Millard regularly appeared at the Bryce Jordan Center to reaffirm his passion for fighting pediatric cancer.

“Over the years, I could never get through to people what it was like to experience THON,” Millard said after THON 2020. “We’ve got something that’s so fantastic, you can’t explain it to people. You have to see it and experience it to know what it’s all about.”

Millard typically joined THON’s press conferences to represent Four Diamonds and reflect on the annual event’s significance. He was also one to speak before the crowd and inspire dancers to keep moving forward.

According to Penn State Health, Four Diamonds has assisted more than 4,800 children and families and raised more than $250 million to combat pediatric cancer. About 70% of those funds came from THON alone.

THON 2022 will kick off on Friday, February 18. For the first time in two years, it will welcome dancers, families, volunteers, and fans to the Bryce Jordan Center to celebrate in person.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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