Just 46 hours after descending on Penn State’s campus on Feb. 18, nearly 700 student dancers, 16,500 student volunteers and many Four Diamond families anticipated the big reveal. The hushed crowd erupted in cheers when it was announced that THON™ 2022 had raised a record-breaking $13.7 million during the weekend-long dance marathon for Four Diamonds at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.
Now in its 50th year, THON – the world’s largest student-led philanthropy – has raised more than $200 million altogether to ensure that pediatric cancer patients undergoing care at the Children’s Hospital receive the most advanced treatment, and at no cost to their families. THON also fuels groundbreaking research and innovative programs.
How it all started
There was a particularly poignant moment for the THON community at this year’s event when they recognized the contributions of Four Diamonds co-founder Charles Millard, who passed away last year.
Millard and his wife, Irma, founded Four Diamonds in 1972, following their son Christopher’s nearly three-year battle with cancer. Their intention was to help other families whose children were fighting cancer at what is now the Children’s Hospital. They took the name from a story that Christopher wrote shortly before his death. The tale tells of a knight’s quest for four diamonds – courage, wisdom, honesty and strength – needed to overcome an evil sorceress, and was symbolic of the characteristics Christopher’s family believed were necessary in his cancer battle.
In 1977, Millard traveled to State College with a development officer to participate in a radio program aired on the Penn State student radio station. Fortuitously, one of the students involved in the radio program also was involved in THON, which had started in 1973 with just 78 dancers and raised a little more than $2,000. As a result of that connection through the radio program, Four Diamonds was selected as the beneficiary of all proceeds from the 1977 event and soon after became the sole beneficiary of all THON proceeds, which until that time had supported a different charity each year.
Throughout THON’s history, the funds it raised for Four Diamonds have led to amazing discoveries that help in the fight to end childhood cancer and to important services for patients and their families. To see how the Millard family’s legacy is changing lives, read the Four Diamonds Impact Report.
In the last decade alone, the funds have supported some of the following:
- Survivorship Clinic that provides a personalized plan of care for every child during one annual visit
- Pediatric Genetic Testing and Counseling program, one of only 30 in the country
- National Research Consortium memberships that bring an even wider array of clinical trials and state-of-the-art care to patients
- Pediatric Oncology Fellowship Program that helps train the next generation of pediatric oncology specialists
- Expanded specialty care services, to include:
- Art therapy that empowers patients to use art to help in their healing process
- “Life on Pause” podcast that helps adolescent and young adult patients find community, support and a safe space to process the changes that cancer has thrust upon their lives
- Parents’ Mentoring and Bereaved Family programs that meet families where they are in the journey and offer them the support they need
For The Kids ®
With their efforts already focused on THON 2023, volunteers and supporters will participate throughout the year in various events that give hope and support to the hundreds of families who turn to the Children’s Hospital each year to provide world-class treatment for their children. Above all, THON will strive to ensure that the families remain at the heart of every volunteer’s efforts and that everything is done For The Kids®.
Visit THON’s website to find out how you can support THON’s mission and make a difference in the lives of children and families battling childhood cancer.