Hundreds of local high schoolers will sacrifice their time and comfort for 12 hours straight this weekend to raise money for children with cancer.
Red Lion Area Senior High School is having its seventh annual mini-THON, modeled after Penn State's successful THON campaign, to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund. The Penn State Hershey program supports patients and families battling pediatric cancer.
It covers any expenses that health insurance does not cover, with the attitude that "families shouldn't have to worry about anything but helping their child," said Misty Wilson, a science teacher at the school who has been an adviser of the event for the past six years.
Why they dance: Wilson said there are 11 living Four Diamonds children under 21 in the school district.
"So we really feel like we can do a lot for the number of families that are impacted in our school district," she said.
Each year, the event features a local student with cancer who motivates the fundraising campaign, Wilson said. This year, Aaron Weiss, a fifth-grader at Locust Grove Elementary, has encouraged students to fight for a cure.
At a kickoff assembly in March, his parents emotionally spoke to students about their son's brain tumor, diagnosed earlier this year.
"It really helps motivate them," Wilson said. "To see a grown man cry really lets you know you're doing the right thing."
Last year, mini-THONs in elementary, middle and high schools raised $1.5 million for the kids, she said. That total is separate from the THON total, which raised more than $12 million in February.
She said Red Lion's dance consistently ranks No. 5 or 6 out of 65 mini-THONs in the state in money raised.
"We're very proud of what we do," Wilson said.
She's expecting 375 to 400 participants this year.
Each dancer must raise at least $75 to participate, and about half of the group goes above that quota, Wilson said.
The fundraising goal, $45,000, is pretty conservative, she said, and the group hopes to raise more than that. The past three years have exceeded that amount.
Although the event is mainly associated with dancing, other activities also take place, such as badminton, ultimate Frisbee and dodgeball, Wilson said. The main objective is to keep students on their feet, which symbolizes the constant fight that kids with cancer endure, she said.
She said the culmination of the event is when hundreds of tired students are finally allowed to sit down.
"It's probably one of the most emotional things I've ever experienced," she said. "It's very rewarding."
Details: The event welcomes registered guests and invited families but not the public due to security reasons, Wilson said.
To donate, visit www.fourdiamonds.donordrive.com and click on Red Lion's link on the right.
-Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org