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‘Puts It Into Perspective’: THON Dancer Honors Uncle Who Died From Childhood Leukemia

For one THON dancer, pediatric cancer hits close to home. Senior biobehavioral health major Julia Mewha grew up hearing all about her uncle’s battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Mewha’s uncle was diagnosed with ALL in the 1970s when he was just 4 years old. After a three-year battle, he passed away. The survival rate was just 10% back then.

“My mom instilled his story in us,” Mewha said. “He’s a big reason why I THON. It puts it into perspective.”

Her uncle’s story came full circle when she was first introduced to a Four Diamonds child. One of the team’s THON children had the same diagnosis, though the survival rate is much higher. Nowadays, the pediatric ALL survival rate is up to nearly 90%.

“She’s cancer-free,” Mewha said. “She’s two and a half years post-treatment.”

Mewha is representing Club Equestrian and Professional Golf Management (PGM) this weekend as a THON 2022 dancer. While she’s been involved with THON since her freshman year at Penn State, Mewha first got involved with the organization in middle school: a mini-Mini-THON.

The senior hails from Delaware County and attended Springfield High School. At the time, Springfield hosted one of the largest Mini-THONs in Pennsylvania, and Mewha danced for about 16 hours.

During her freshman year, Mewha was involved with THON through Club Equestrian, and she stayed in the stands for all but two hours. The following year, she was on THON’s Rules & Regulations committee and served as a family relations liaison. Last year, she was on R&R again and a security leader. Currently, Mewha is the family relations chair for the Penn State Equestrian Team.

THON has been a monumental part of Mewha’s Penn State story, but for those who know her, they’d say she wears many hats. In addition to Club Equestrian, Mewha serves as the president of Penn State’s EDM Club.

“I’ve been involved since freshman year,” Mewha said. “I found them at the Involvement Fair. I love music, and I’ve always been into it. We’re gearing up for a big show on April 9.”

Caring for her local community is a fundamental value of Mewha’s character. She volunteers as a crisis hotline counselor for Centre Helps, a nonprofit downtown that assists people with basic needs, emergency shelter, and short-term emotional counseling, among other situations.

“I love helping people and helping the community,” Mewha said. “Centre Helps does a lot, and we’re a really close-knit group, as well. I love my job there. It’s very rewarding work.”

Mewha’s final “hat” is working as a research assistant in an epigenetics lab at Penn State. At the end of the day, she wants to experience all that life has to offer.

One of Mewha’s favorite THON memories involves an experience she had with a THON child while she was a family relations specialist.

“I met this girl, and she immediately complimented my eyeshadow, and I love wearing super crazy eyeshadow because who cares?” Mewha said. “I noticed her name was Julia, too, and I continued to see her throughout the weekend.”

“She was so shy at first,” she continued. “It was almost like she said she loved my eyeshadow under her breath. Throughout the weekend, she was so bubbly.”

As for the rest of the weekend, Mewha is most looking forward to spending time with her new THON family. She met them for the first time last weekend at a birthday party.

“Since she’s not on chemotherapy anymore, they can go have a fun weekend,” Mewha said. “I’m so excited to interact with her more and get to know her. I love interacting with the families and making fun, new memories.”

To savor all of these special moments, Mewha writes down her experiences in a notebook. That way, she can share them with other people and other dancers after the weekend.

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About the Author

Colleen Nersten

Colleen is a junior biology major from York, Pa and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She overuses the ~tilde~ and aspires to be no other than the great Guy Fieri. You can find Colleen filling up her gas tank at Rutter’s, the ~superior~ Pennsylvania gas station. Please direct any questions or concerns to [email protected] For the hijinks, always.

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