Penn State

Four Diamonds families share stories of strength, sorrow

Tammy Golden’s son Trent was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 3 years old, but during their time in Hershey Medical Center she has not seen a bill for anything — not even a bandage.

Golden’s family was adopted by Alpha Sigma Alpha and Lambda Chi Alpha nine years ago, she said Sunday during the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon’s family hour — and it has been a major boon to the family. Thon 2013 raised $12.37 million for pediatric cancer research, pushing the all-time total past $100 million

“Even someone who is blind could walk in here and feel what you guys do for us every single day,” she told the crowd late into the 46-hour dance marathon, which is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Trent Golden is now cancer-free, Tammy Golden said, adding that she believes the best way to beat cancer is research, and the money raised by Thon is something that greatly aids cancer research.

Family hour is one of the most emotional moments of the weekend, and few dry eyes could be found throughout the Bryce Jordan Center with families sharing their cancer stories and a viewing of the “Celebration of Life” video that honors the lives of Four Diamonds children who have passed away.

The Goldens were one of four Four Diamonds Fund families who spoke this year and told their cancer stories to the packed BJC and 710 student dancers on the floor.

While the families of Emily Whitehead and Dustin Beaver also told stories of success and children fighting with and on pace to beat cancer, Teddy Morton’s family’s story was different.

Teddy, who was born with leukemia and only lived 127 days, passed away in 2009 and never made it to a Thon, but his family continues to tell his story and show support for all the other Four Diamonds children.

He was born around Christmastime in 2008, and wasn’t expected to live through the first night. He never spoke, could barely smile and slept most of the day, but the Four Diamonds Fund and Thon embraced him and that is something his family will never forget.

“We are in awe of everything you’ve done for our family and families like ours,” Dennis Morton said.

Throughout the hour all the Four Diamonds families in attendance were announced and allowed to walk on stage to a greeting of applause from the large crowd.

After the speeches and the video, all attendees in the BJC locked arms, swayed back and forth and sang “Angels Among Us” to conclude the hour.

Thon has raised more than $10 million two years in a row and more than $100 million overall, but the dancers dance for a cure, not for a celebration. That is something Dennis Morton said will change when there is a cure for the disease.

“You will hear survivor story after survivor story,” he said, “and that weekend we will really dance.”