When it was all said and done, there were tears, triumphs, tired legs and a record turnout for the fifth annual mini-THON at .
The 12-hour event came to an end at 10 p.m. Friday night, and after the tireless efforts from the students and faculty there was reason to celebrate.
Lower Moreland had close to 400 student dancers and the result was $60,143.65 raised for the Four Diamonds Fund to help fight pediatric cancer. The students raised more than $10K from last year and the chant of "FTK...FTK" (For The Kids) was sung in unison as the students gathered in the closing minutes.
Over a five-year period, Lower Moreland has now raised a total of $191,476.54.
The fundraiser is modeled after the one at Penn State University that happens every February. It’s a two-day dance marathon and it’s the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. With so many local people in the area familiar with the event, LM began hosting its own fundraiser and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. The Four Diamonds Fund has been a partner with PSU since 1977 and has raised more than $78 million to help fight cancer. Each student dancer at LM had to raise a minimum of $75 in order to participate.
The students volunteered a ton of extra hours working on THON since the school year started and it was an emotional night all around after putting together such a great effort for an even greater cause.
A family whose child suffered from pediatric cancer was on hand to witness what a difference teenage students can make.
“My 16-month-old son in December of ’09 was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in his prostate.” Shayne Beecher said. “From that experience, Four Diamonds was there to support our family through different programs and treatment over the 42 weeks ... they were there to make sure if there was ever any need for help with health insurance or special medicines, they were there for support. But most importantly, all of their research helped save my son’s life,” said Beecher.
Another person directly connected to the Four Diamonds Fund made a 2-hour drive from central Pennsylvania just to see the magic at Lower Moreland on Friday night.
“I’ve become more involved with the Four Diamonds, I’m actually a long-term Four Diamonds survivor,” said Carlisle resident Justin Kauffman. “This year marks 16 years cancer free. And Four Diamonds has benefited my life and been able to help, and now it’s more of a shift gear to help students understand why they are doing what they’re doing and why it’s important to raise money for cancer research.”
Part of the fundraiser involved endurance and all of the students had to stand for the entire 12 hours. They couldn't sit down or know what time it was. The clocks in the gym were covered up and it was probably the longest any of them went without having their cell phones in a while. The only concept of time was scheduled choreographed line dances.
Throughout the night students were kept busy with non-stop music, competitions, sports and board games. Each grade competed as a team and received point totals from the games played. Each class was dressed in different-colored T-shirts: pink (freshmen), green (sophomores), gold (juniors), and blue (seniors) and the juniors came out on top.
Food was donated and students were allowed to take breaks to eat and use the bathroom. Sugary foods were used to combat any lulls dancers experienced from standing on their feet so long.
“While staying on one’s feet for 12 hours continuously is a physical challenge for those who participate, we try to impress upon our students that it’s a mere fraction of the pain and emotional burden children with cancer face every day,” said THON faculty member Seth Baron. “Being a part of this event really drives that idea home for our students, who in turn learn that what they are doing can really make a difference in the lives of families trying to cope with this disease.”
By the end of the night all of the Jenga and Connect 4 pieces had been exhausted, the lip-syncing and dance competitions were over and the students performed their last line dance. There were many tired toes and the only thing left to do was count the money raised. There was a big crowd on hand made up of parents and former students during the final hour to see it all come to a close.
“What these kids bring to the table, they were non-stop, relentless,” said Baron. “They had a goal and they killed it. I was thinking maybe mid-50’s. I saw the numbers coming in during the week so I knew we had $50 (thousand). We actually made a good chunk of change during the night and that made a difference.
A loud ovation came from the crowd after realizing they had raised over $60,000, and then the students participated in a countdown and collectively sat down and were off their feet for the first time since early that morning.
“Hopefully we can keep the momentum going,” said Baron. “We have a strong crew in place for next year."
About the Four Diamonds Fund
In 1977, Penn State held the first ever THON. The proceeds from THON have helped lessen both the financial and emotional burdens of families struggling with pediatric cancer. Charles and Irma Millard founded the Four Diamonds Fund in 1972 in honor of their son, Christopher, who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 14. Before Christopher passed away, he wrote a story encompassing what The Four Diamonds Fund represents. 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. The four diamonds are symbolic of the traits Chris believed were necessary to overcome cancer. The Millard’s wanted to establish a program that would provide financial assistance for families whose children were being treated for cancer at Penn State’s Children’s Hospital. The Fund offsets the cost of treatment that insurance does not cover, as well as expenses that may disrupt the welfare of the child. The Fund supports the medical team that cares for the children and funds pediatric cancer research through start-up grants and the Four Diamonds Pediatric Cancer Research Institute.