Penn State York sophomore Jimmy Clark, a Red Lion graduate, and senior Kara Smith, a West York graduate, are participating in the THON dance marathon
Penn State York sophomore Jimmy Clark, a Red Lion graduate, and senior Kara Smith, a West York graduate, are participating in the THON dance marathon Friday through Sunday. (Bill Kalina)

Jimmy Clark has a reason to dance.

In December 2008, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer in his right leg. He was treated at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey. A surgery removing the tumor and saving his leg was done at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Clark, 20, of Red Lion, will spend 46 hours doing some of his best dance moves at the annual Penn State InterFraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, familiarly known as "Thon."

The event will be held from Friday to Sunday at Bryce Jordan Center in State College.

"I'm nervous and excited," said Clark, a sophomore business management student at Penn State York. "I've never done this before. I'm more excited for this Thon this year than anything in my life."

Clark said his excitement is from being chosen, along with fellow Penn State York student Kara Smith, to represent the school at the event.

Thon benefits the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey. Last year, the event raised more than $10.6 million. Over the years, Thon has raised more than $89 million for Four Diamonds, which assists children with cancer and their families.

"I'm a Four Diamond kid," Clark said. "They helped my family when I was going through cancer, and I've been involved with Thon since that time. To be on this end, to be giving back to everybody, just means the world to me."

Thon rookie: Smith, a 22-year-old senior, said this marks her first time representing the school at Thon. Smith said that while the idea of staying up and not sitting for 46 hours is "kind of intimidating," she also feels honored and "beyond excited" to participate in an event that helps people battle cancer.

"The people we help, especially the kids, get to see their lives changed because of the help that we are able to give," said Smith, a communications, arts and sciences major. "They feel like they're not alone and to not give up on their fight."

Penn State York also is raising money for Thon. The goal is $20,000, as the campus Thon committee is working to break its record of $17,000, said Barbara Dennis, the school's spokeswoman.

Among the fundraising activities was a "Poker with Jimmy" tournament that raised $10,000.

Clark, who created the tournament, said that as students have fun doing Thon and other activities to benefit Four Diamonds, he hopes they understand how much their efforts encourage families battling cancer.

"I could remember how it was for me and my family," Clark said. "It gave us chills to realize we had so much support going on behind us."

- Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.