Once a patient, now a participant

By on February 22, 2018

Denver’s Palm part of another successful THON at PSU

Penn State junior Michael Palm has all the best reasons for participating in THON, the university’s massive fundraiser for cancer research.

He’s dedicated, he’s compassionate, and he’s seen cancer from the other side.

When he was six years old, Palm was diagnosed with leukemia.

A son of John and Barb Palm, Michael grew up in Denver and graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School.

At Penn State, he’s majoring in athletic training.

Looking back, Palm, now 20, said he doesn’t remember much about the three years of his young life that were spent receiving treatment at the Penn State Milton Hershey Medical Center. He doesn’t recall the daily terror his parents lived with, or the pain and sickness, and uncertainty.

“That’s probably a good thing,” he says now.

Palm is cancer free, and has been for years.

“Everything is great now,” he said.

Palm does remember his parents taking him to the THON event as a child, however.

“I think it might have been 2004, and we’ve never missed it since,” he said.

Like they do now, Palm’s family was “adopted” by a Penn State organization that would support and help the family in various ways. Michael and his family were adopted by a sorority and a fraternity.

Palm is a member of that fraternity today, the Sigma Phi Epsilon.

“That’s great because I’ll be able to keep being friends with them long after college,” he said.

For both his freshman and sophomore year at Penn State, Palm was a member of the Dancer Relations Committee for THON.

“It was a lot of fun; every dancer has a dance relations committee member to help them get through the weekend,” Palm said. “We give them support, letters of encouragement, and even games to play.”

Unlike the dancers, the committee members worked in shifts, so they didn’t need to stay awake for the entire 46 hours of the dance marathon that is THON.

This year, Palm became a communications captain, working with 21 different Penn State campuses throughout the state.

The Penn State branches are called “Commonwealth Campuses,” and it was Palm’s job to coordinate schedules and activities for the various campuses.

“It was a lot of work; it was a lot of emails and ‘face time,’ since they can’t easily make it to State College for events,” Palm said.

Palm helped coordinate a retreat held at a camp near Penn State just weeks before the THON weekend to get everybody psyched and ready for the big event.

Palm was chosen for the communications captain position after he filled out an application and then interviewed soon after school started this past fall.

“They knock on your door, hand you balloons, and right from there, you hit the ground running,” Palm said.

From holding retreats to organizing workshops, Palm was kept busy through the year.

“It’s great to be immersed in it so quickly,” Palm said. “There’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into THON.”

More than 20 different committees, 300 captains, and thousands of committee members help THON achieve its goals, Palm said, and their results are worth it.

This year, as last year, THON brought in more than $10 million to go toward cancer research and the Four Diamonds fund, which helps pay expenses for families affected with childhood cancer.

“I joined THON because I was personally affected by it,” Palm said. “It’s great to go on the volunteer side of it.”

Plenty of Penn State students want to be a part of THON because they’ve heard about it and want to volunteer for a good cause, he said.

But nothing can compare to actually being a part of THON weekend, Palm said.

“It’s hard to explain; it’s just unbelievable to walk into the Bryce Jordan Center and see 16,000 people dancing for the same reason,” Palm said. “Once the weekend happens, it’s amazing.”

Looking at the financial totals for the year-long events is quite remarkable, too, he added.

“I would invite anyone to get involved, because every dollar matters,” Palm said. “I’d like to spread the news more, so we can help more people.”

To donate to THON, visit donate.thon.org.

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