Every year, Pennsylvania students raise millions of dollars to fight childhood cancer. Mini-THON’s—student-organized fundraising drives modeled after the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON)—are a tradition at over 265 schools.
Last year, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges raised over $7.2 million for Four Diamonds, Penn State Health’s philanthropic arm benefiting pediatric cancer patients and research at Penn State Children’s Hospital.
With Penn State THON 2020 kicking off today, LebTown reached out to the school districts within Lebanon County regarding Mini-THON participation and all six school districts detailed students’ Mini-THON traditions as well as this year’s fundraising goals.
Combined, the schools are aiming to raise over $105,000 for Four Diamonds. (For a full list of school events, visit Four Diamonds’ schedule).
From dinosaur and military themes to overnight stand-ins and “dance-a-thons,” here’s how Lebanon schools are raising money to fight childhood cancer this spring.
WHERE: Annville-Cleona High School
WHEN: Friday, March 6 from 7-11:30 p.m.
Ryan Clements, teacher and faculty advisor at Annville-Cleona High School, said school is doing a Jurassic Park theme for its 23rd annual Four Diamonds Marathon event, called “Let’s Make Cancer Prehistoric.” The community is invited to attend the event at no cost and enjoy activities such as face painting, temporary tattoos, a photo booth, open gym games, a talent show and a formal presentation recognizing business donors.
Students and staff will have their hair cut for Locks of Love, a local Four Diamonds family will speak, and the night will conclude with a walk of remembrance throughout the building.
Clements said Class of ’06 alumnus Nick Pulaski reached out to Annville-Cleona Mini-THON Committee two years ago with a request to speak at the school.
“His daughter Devin, who was four at the time, had been diagnosed with cancer and was being helped by Four Diamonds,” Clements said. “He felt it was important for his alma mater to know the difference that they were making in his family’s life.”
Devin had told her parents one day that her “belly felt a little funny. Doctors ran tests and discovered a Wilm’s tumor, a variety of cancer that attacks the kidneys. Already in stage 4, the tumor was too large to have removed. Pulaski told students that the money they’d raised was directly helping the children at Penn State Children’s Hospital. Last year, the school raised over $76,000.
Clements said Pulaski and Devin returned to Annville-Cleona’s kick-off assembly in December with great news: after nine months of chemotherapy and four months of radiation, Devin is cancer-free.
WHERE: Cedar Crest High School
WHEN: Friday, March 6 from 2:30-10:00 p.m.
Sue Steckbeck, work-based learning teacher at Cedar Crest High, told LebTown that a committee of the school’s Key Club members and advisors are planning and organizing a variety of activities: tournaments for volleyball, dodgeball and floor hockey, an inflatable obstacle course, bingo, art, gaga pit, ping-pong, cornhole, karaoke, robots, zumba and plenty more (including free food).
Steckbeck said students attending the event must raise money for Four Diamonds. This will be the school’s fifth Mini-THON. Steckbeck added that there are a number of recent Cedar Crest graduates who had worked on the school’s planning committees in high school and took Four Diamonds’ mission with them to college.
“We have many Cedar Crest alumni who are participating in the Penn State THON,” Steckbeck said. “The tradition, enthusiasm and community service continues to be a part of their college life.”
A luminary walk is planned as a tribute to cancer victims and survivors, and the evening will conclude with a dance party followed by the final reveal of the amount of money raised during the 2019-20 school year. Cedar Crest High School’s fundraising goal this year is $25,000.
“There are many CCHS students and staff members , community people, and local businesses who support our efforts with generous contributions to help make our event an outstanding success,” Steckbeck said. “Every dollar raised makes a different in the lives of our Four Diamonds families.”
Eastern Lebanon County
WHERE: Eastern Lebanon County High School
WHEN: May, 2020
Hannah Sollenberger and Holly Hartman, faculty advisors of Eastern Lebanon County High School’s annual RaiderTHON, said the school holds a variety of fundraising events throughout the year, including “Tackling Cancer” during football season and “Gold Rush” during basketball season. The culminating event this year is a birthday bash in the spring, called “Plush Rush.”
This year, RaiderTHON turns 10. The birthday bash will be held outside in the school’s courtyard in May and will include birthday games, prizes and a “Dance-a-thon.”
Student club members will run the event, with help from adult advisors and faculty/staff volunteers. They hope to raise $20,000 this year. According to Sollenberger and Hartman, over $8,000 has been raised so far.
The school district will also be celebrating Eastern Lebanon Middle’s first-ever Mini-THON this year.
WHERE: Southwest Elementary School
WHEN: Friday, March 13 from 3:30-7:30 p.m.
In 2011, the Southwest Elementary community suffered the tragic loss of a 1st grade student to childhood cancer. Six years ago, the student’s classmates were in 5th grade and ready to move on to middle school, but not without remembering the friend they’d lost. That year the school held its first Mini-THON with the theme “no matter how small.”
This year’s event is BATTLE VISION, a boot camp-inspired event where staff and students will attempt to recover four mission diamonds using the “courage, wisdom, strength and honesty similarly used in the U.S. Armed Forces,” said Elizabeth Damiano, teacher and Mini-THON advisor at Southwest Elementary.
To learn more about the skills necessary to complete the mission, students were paid a visit during their kick-off assembly by an officer with the Army National Guard.
“Our battle vision is clear in 2020. The Southwest Elementary army has joined Four Diamonds in their mission to conquer childhood cancer,” Damiano said. “We are inspired by the warriors that continue to fight, and yet we will never forget the ones we have lost: Brandt Pflueger, Remedy Martinez and Rey Flores.
WHERE: Northern Lebanon High School
WHEN: Friday, April 24
Northern Lebanon High School students plan fundraising events throughout the year, culminating with an annual overnight Mini-THON event. The event is preceded by a Community Night, happening this year on April 24.
School counselor Beth Kline told LebTown that the evening will include carnival style games, basket raffles and a Hresko’s Chicken Bar-B-Q Pit sale.
The school’s sixth annual Mini-THON will begin the following Saturday at 7 p.m. and conclude Sunday morning at 7 a.m.
“The students participate in activities in the gym, cafeteria and hallways,” Kline said. “The biggest challenge for the kids is not staying up all night, but they do have stay on their feet. They cannot sit at all for the entire duration of the event.”
The Mini-THON ends with the final fundraising total reveal for the year. This year, Northern Lebanon’s goal is $20,000.
WHERE: Palmyra Area Middle School
WHEN: Friday, Feb. 28 from 2:45-10:00 p.m.
Faculty advisor Doug Knepp said over 200 students grades 6-8 will be participating in this year’s Mini-THON with a fundraising goal of $40,000.
The event will include speakers from Four Diamond families, a luminary walk and three hours of free time for students to play games, eat, play on inflatables, play video games, hang out with friends, get hair cuts to donate to Wigs for Kids, and more.
“We have a lot of family and community support which allows us to have the success that we have,” Knepp told LebTown. Our student committee of about 20-30 students has done an amazing job setting everything up and working hard to ensure that this is our best year ever. Each year our committees grow and improve and that is shown by our Mini-THONs and our overall results.”
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