Penn State

Thon families, volunteers reconnect at 5K

Brooke Schultz dances with Carl the Conqueror, the new Thon mascot, during the Thon 5K on Sunday, November 2, 2014. Carl the Conqueror was introduced during Harvest Days and Four Diamonds families were given the opportunity to name him.
Brooke Schultz dances with Carl the Conqueror, the new Thon mascot, during the Thon 5K on Sunday, November 2, 2014. Carl the Conqueror was introduced during Harvest Days and Four Diamonds families were given the opportunity to name him. CDT photo

The chilly autumn temperatures Sunday couldn’t keep the Thon faithful away.

Clay Hamman, 11, lined up for the 14th annual Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon 5K in his usual spot — the front of the pack. Clay, of Alexandria, survived liver cancer 10 years ago.

About 7,000 people ran the race to raise money and awareness for the Four Diamonds Fund, Thon’s sole beneficiary for battling pediatric cancer.

“We haven’t missed one of these races yet,” Clay’s father, Tim Hamman, said. “It’s so fun to be a part of, especially with him being healthy, and he likes running. He likes getting to the front to start.”

Thon public relations director Aly Young said she won’t know how much money the 5K raised for a few days.

“I think the 5K is a special event, because it brings people from Penn State, the State College community and our Thon families together,” Young said. “I think the relationships we build with families and children is what motivates us to do this, and when you hear a family say that we’re inspiring them it’s kind of remarkable, because we’re inspired by them to do this first and foremost.”

Like many volunteers and families Thon merchandise captain Vinny Carrano and Thon child Crystal Bryan, who survived acute lymphoblastic leukemia about 18 years ago, reunited before the 5K.

Carrano’s sister Lauren, who died from acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 1996, was often in the hospital with Bryan during chemotherapy treatments.

“It’s great seeing her, because we always say relationships here last forever,” Carrano said. “She’s one of them, a relationship that’ll never end.”

Bryan decided to get involved with Thon again a few years ago to teach her children about cancer.

“I have three children, and I wanted them to understand the world of childhood cancer and the impact they can make as well,” Bryan said. “When I got sick, I didn’t understand what childhood cancer was, and if any any of my kids get that sick or if any of their friends get sick I want them to know it’s not the end of the world.”

Emily Whitehead, 9, said she looked forward to walking the 5K with her Thon group, the Public Relations Student Society of America.

The Philipsburg girl has been in remission since May 2012 and has survived acute lymphoblastic leukemia twice.

The 5K also gave Thon volunteers a chance to make new connections.

Family relations captain Leah Pollock met Eli Schultz, 6, and played with him before the 5K. Eli was diagnosed with kidney cancer when he was 4 and has been in remission for about two years.

“I think it’s amazing how so many people come together to help others they’ve never met and that they care so passionately about it,” Pollock said. “It’s worth it to run around and play with the kids out here and see them smiling, because they’re not thinking about cancer or the cold. They’re just having a blast with us, and that’s what we came here for.”

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