THON: They dance for kids

They dance to help kids with cancer.

To someone who doesn’t know about THON, that simple statement might seem absurd. How, they might ask, could something as simple as dancing possibly help children cope with an illness as serious as cancer?

The answer is simple. Penn State’s THON combines the painstaking effort of endless hours of community outreach with the hope of helping those least able to help themselves. Through dance, they turn a depressing thought – children with cancer – into a celebration of life.

Their efforts resulted in a record-breaking accomplishment this year and will benefit current and future children afflicted with cancer.

My own daughter, Ryleigh, was diagnosed with cancer as a child and passed away due to the effects of the disease. As THON arrives each year, I can see Ryleigh in my mind’s eye dancing with all of the other participants.

Approximately 50 years ago, a cancer diagnosis was close to a death sentence for a child. Today, thanks to advances in research and treatment, many children overcome the disease. The goal remains to find a cure to protect every child.

As chairman of the bipartisan House Cancer Caucus, I work in Harrisburg to hold informational meetings to provide educational resources for my colleagues in the state Legislature.

The students at Penn State spread the word in their own way by dancing to combat childhood cancer. It’s hard to believe they’ve been doing it since 1977. Their dedication and endurance are an example for all to follow.

THON was a success this year because it once again highlighted the fact that a simple act – dancing – can spur hope to overcome the scourge of cancer.

State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff is a Bellefonte Republican whose 171st Legislative District includes portions of Mifflin and Centre counties.