You might have done things for charity that left your wallet empty or your muscles aching, but few such events will test your reserve like THON.
Even the name is like no other. Such a simple monicker stuck on an event at Penn State, THON last weekend raised a new record $12.37 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Hershey Children's Hospital. Since the event began in 1977, more than $100 million has been raised.
Make no mistake, there are no shortage of givers in Pennsylvania. We have the reputation for digging down deep when the need arises. That is a point of pride for every resident of the Keystone State, and each year THON raises the bar higher and higher.
What is it about this event that continues to raise so much money? Ask 10 people who take part in THON and you just might get 10 very different answers. Some might point to the extremely well organized groups of student activists who get things done with electric precision. Another might point to the two days of endless dancing, and the energy that feeds on itself all weekend. Still others would say it's the engaging story of The Four Diamonds, written by Christopher Millard, a young cancer victim, when he was ill in the 1970s. Chris is gone, but his parents, Charles and Irma Millard, take part each year in the huge fundraising effort.
If you don't know the story of the Four Diamonds, Christopher wrote it instead of an autobiography that everyone else in his class was assigned. He wrote it shortly before he lost his battle with cancer at the age of 14. In Chris' story, a knight must find the Four Diamonds of Courage, Wisdom, Honesty and Strength in order to be released from captivity by an evil sorceress. These Four Diamonds are symbolic of the traits Chris believed were necessary to overcome cancer.
Cancer survivors, the families of children who have lost their own battles, and kids who are now fighting cancer with everything they have, might each view the Four Diamonds story in a way that reflects their own situation. But take this for certain: The money raised through THON, and the work it does in fighting cancer and helping young patients and their families get the help they need without worrying about the costs, will never be taken for granted.
Each year the students at Penn State amaze us with the money they raise. To be sure, the event has expanded beyond Happy Valley and the university, but none of it would happen without the THON committees on the University Park campus, and the monumental event that takes place in the Bryce Jordan Center. We salute each participant, and thank them for the work they do.