Penns Valley

Column: Thon is much more than a number

The Nittany Lion holds Four Diamonds child Corban Potter, 5, after he cut his hair to donate to Wigs for Kids Saturday during the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon in the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Nittany Lion holds Four Diamonds child Corban Potter, 5, after he cut his hair to donate to Wigs for Kids Saturday during the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon in the Bryce Jordan Center. CDT photo

This year's numerical representation of Thon volunteers’ yearlong efforts to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital is $13,026,653.23.

Numbers lie.

What Thon means to Four Diamonds families and Thon volunteers is worth so much more.

Sure, you can put a price on a lot of things.

It costs, according to Thon, about $60 for one hour of child life coverage in inpatient and outpatient units. It costs $150 for a leukemia patient’s day of outpatient treatments. And it costs about $300 to buy a wig for a patient who has lost his or her hair due to chemotherapy.

But there is no price on Thon.

No doctor bill.

No monetary way to measure the impact Thon has.

What price can be put on Omega Phi Alpha sending dozens of cards and letters to Miranda Kaye Zeigler’s family?

Miranda is one of the sorority’s Four Diamonds children, but she died from high-risk T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2009, just weeks before she would have graced Thon for the first time with her smile, one that anyone who ever saw it can’t forget.

Their relationship is worth more than $13,026,653.23.

What price can be put on Josiah Graybill’s perseverance?

And, for that matter, every Four Diamonds child’s perseverance?

Josiah was 8 years old when he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in 2008, but he has been considered cancer free for several years.

He had multiple surgeries and underwent over a year of chemotherapy, but he did it with the support of his family, one that extends far beyond his mother, father and brother and to every Four Diamonds family and Thon volunteer. His mother said during family hour that a test in July will determine if he is cured.

Their perseverance is also worth more than $13,026,653.23.

A 2013 Penn State alumnus and former Thon volunteer, I’ve asked so many Thon volunteers, Four Diamonds families and children with cancer what Thon means to them.

Not one has ever regurgitated a number like $13,026,653.23

There are, however, often tears involved.

Volunteers have told about me the first time they met a Four Diamonds child, the year they danced for 46 straight hours and about getting a text from a child who is now cancer free.

Parents have told me about the first time volunteers donned hospital gowns to meet their child between chemotherapy treatments, when they learned about Thon and when they’ve danced with or without their child at Thon.

$13,026,653.23 is just a number.

And it is a lie.

Thon is worth so much more.

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