THON: Ephrata siblings ready to dance

By on February 17, 2016
Ephrata’s Kathryn and Michael Hoover outside the Bryce Jordan Center at last October’s THON 5K run.

Ephrata’s Kathryn and Michael Hoover outside the Bryce Jordan Center at last October’s THON 5K run.

Ephrata’s Michael and Kathryn Hoover will be among the more than 700 dancers crowding the floor at Penn State University’s Bryce Jordan Center this weekend for the annual THON dance marathon. Both siblings are excited about being selected as dancers (for the first time) and have a history with THON at both PSU and the miniTHONS here at home.

An Ephrata High School graduate in 2011, Michael is in his fifth year in the Integrated MAcc Program, a five-year accounting program. He will graduate in May with a dual major in finance; the program not only allows him to earn a B.S. in finance and a B.S. in accounting, but also a master of accounting. He explained that he became aware of the Four Diamonds Fund when Lindsay Smith, a friend since childhood, was diagnosed with cancer and Four Diamonds assisted the family. That sparked his interest in participating at Ephrata High School’s mini-Thon.

Kathryn, a 2013 Ephrata High School graduate, and PSU senior majoring in childhood and early adolescent education with an extended minor in special education, also became involved in Thon at Ephrata High School.

She explained that as a member of student council, she was heavily involved in the school’s mini-Thon. During her junior year, she donated her hair during the high school’s mini-Thon and that year also visited Penn State for a tour of Thon.

“Being on the floor was when I really knew I wanted to be a part of Thon,” she said adding that as a Penn State student she became involved in Kappa Phi, a Christian service sorority that is heavily involved in THON by canning, fundraisers and doing Thonvelopes.

Michael’s first experience with Thon at Penn State was during his freshman year. “It was an eye-opening experience; Ephrata’s mini-Thon is nothing in scale compared to the Thon at Bryce Jordan Center. After seeing first-hand the passion of those involved and how the students were so involved with the Four Diamonds families including the Smith family, I knew it was something that I wanted to be involved in. It’s hard to explain but it just resonated with me,” he said.

His sister said that she became involved in Thon because “no child should have to go through childhood cancer.”

“By working with children every day (as an educator), I see how happy they should be. However, when a child has cancer, he or she misses out on being a child. No one should have to go through that,” Kathryn explained, “Kappa Phi has a Thon child, Erica, who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was eight years old and has been cancer-free for two years. Spending time with Erica has really given me a firsthand look at how cancer can affect someone. The struggles that I hear that she went through break my heart. If I could go back and take away all the pain and doctor’s visits for her I would, but by participating in Thon we are helping to take away one stress of cancer — being able to pay the bills.”

Michael’s continued to be involved in Thon activities through a business organization, Smeal Student Mentors. This year he’s served as the organization’s Thon and alumni relations chairman.

He explained the organization raised funds for Thon through canning, hosting alternate fundraisers, canvassing, and sending Thonvelopes to family members and friends.

“Our fundraisers are hard work. Going canning and having people come up to you and tell you about their or a loved one’s struggle with cancer or their involvement or knowledge of Thon, instantly puts everything back in perspective,” Michael stressed.

As the business organization’s Thon chairman, he had the opportunity to become close with two Four Diamonds families; one from the Lancaster area, the other from the Hershey area.

“Making trips to Hershey Medical Center, babysitting, and just getting to know the children and family more, makes all the hard work and fundraising all the more worthwhile,” he said.

In addition to being a Kappa Phi member, Kathryn served as the sorority’s Thon chairwoman her sophomore year, and this year she’s serving as family relations chairwoman and Thon chairwoman. She said that in that role she plans all of the sorority’s Thon fundraising events and all of the events with their Thon family.

With regard to the upcoming Thon, Michael said that standing and dancing for 46 hours without sitting will be one of the hardest things he’s ever done, as well as an honor and privilege in his last year at Penn State.

“I know it’ll be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I wouldn’t give it up for anything else. Having my parents and friends visit me on the floor will keep me going. Throughout the weekend it’ll be awesome to play with the children and Four Diamonds families effected by pediatric cancer,” he said, “Dancing alongside my sister will be awesome and will be such a great experience to share together. She will be my rock and emotional support through all 46 hours. I Thon so that kids can be kids again. No family should have to deal with the burden of pediatric cancer. FTK! (For The Kids)!”

Kathryn shared similar sentiments about being selected as a Thon dancer for Kappa Phi.

“We will be fighting for a cure that is bigger than us. Playing with the Four Diamonds children, listening to musical acts, performers, seeing my friends and family come visit me on the floor, and of course, having my brother dance through Smeal Student Mentors will be a huge help to keep me sane,” she said, “THON has affected my life in more ways then I know. As a pre-student teacher my students are constantly telling me little tidbits of their life. I have been given the opportunity to talk to my students about THON and been able to talk to them about some of the children being sick with cancer. Some have expressed a desire to donate their hair or to make cards. Being so involved in Thon has made me more open to talking about these situations with my students and other people and spreading an awareness about childhood cancer and the need to find a cure. It has also made me really listen to the needs of my students in a way I never thought about it before.”

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