Penn State

‘If you asked Elliot today, he would forget that he had cancer’

Penn State Thon volunteer Steve Sandford sits with Thon child Elliot Ross at the 2016 Family Carnival on Sunday.
Penn State Thon volunteer Steve Sandford sits with Thon child Elliot Ross at the 2016 Family Carnival on Sunday. sannarelli@centredaily.com

It’s hard to imagine that Elliot Ross had cancer.

The nine-year-old’s life-of-the-party personality combined with an infectious smile make him memorable everywhere he goes, but it also makes it easy to forget he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He is now in remission.

Elliot’s character, in a way, makes Penn State Thon a perfect fit for him.

“He’s a blast,” Steve Sandford said. “He always puts a smile on my face.”

Sandford, a Thon volunteer and Elliot’s newest best friend since they met last month, was drenched Sunday at the organization’s annual Family Carnival. The event is designed for volunteers and families to interact.

Elliot doesn’t exactly take it easy on his new buddy — getting piggyback rides, tackling him out of nowhere and shooting him with squirt guns.

It makes Elliot’s parents, Amy and Eric, appreciate what Thon has given to their family.

“Thon has been very eye-opening for us to know there are so many people who put Thon together, all of the different areas of it and how much they support the kids,” Amy Ross said. “Everyone is overwhelmingly awesome. No one is ever down. It’s never a job or chore for them. They want to be here with our kids.”

About 30 students in the organization IST to Benefit Thon adopted the Ross family to support Elliot’s fight against cancer.

Kathleen Beck, who will dance at Thon in 2017, is IST’s president and stays in constant contact with the family.

“They’re a really amazing family,” Beck said. “They’re so welcoming that they offered to have us for Christmas if we’re not going home. It really shows the relationship we have.”

And it’s easy to see, too.

Elliot always has volunteers with him at Thon events, enabling him to forget about how many chemotherapy pills he has to take that day and to not worry about the next time he’ll get a painful spinal tap.

“If you asked Elliot today, he would forget that he had cancer,” Amy Ross said.

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli

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