MiniTHON, big impact

“Don’t sit,” Rebekah Fries, student chair of South Williamsport Area High School’s MiniTHON, told the crowd of 300 students.

The students who attended the second annual MiniTHON that would benefit the Four Diamonds Fund which provides support for patients and families facing pediatric cancer had agreed to not only stay at the school for 12 hours, but to stay moving the entire time.

“You may get tired, hysterical but I hope you know what kind of a difference you’re making,” Fries said. “… You are dancing for those who can’t.”

The event started last school year when Ryan Carper, teacher and event advisor, wanted to bring a smaller version of Penn State University’s annual THON to his school.

After raising about $18,000 at last year’s event, students stepped up and improved on that number to raise about $23,400.

Students danced, played volleyball, participated in inflatable obstacle courses, along with other various activities during the entire 12 hours. Members of Penn State’s Blue Band also were present to play during the opening presentation.

But the group also heard a first-hand account of the cause they were hoping to help.

Stephanie Bieber spoke about her daughter Kourtney’s fight with cancer. She spoke about how her daughter felt sick, but then was diagnosed with a curable case of cancer.

But after kidney failure and mini strokes, the outcome wasn’t as she had hoped for.

“I watched my daughter fight cancer with all she had,” Bieber said.

Bieber added that she was “angry at cancer for taking my oldest daughter from me.” She said her daughter never had the opportunity to attend prom, graduate or get married.

It’s stories like this one, that Carper hoped would let students know that anyone can be affected.

“Our big thing is for people to understand that there are several Four Diamond families in the area,” he said.

Carper also hopes that the event will build a sense of philanthropy in students. He said it’s important for them to think “about others and help those in need.”

“At a young age, it’s easy for them to not think of others,” Carper said. “… We certainly want them to pick up a habit of selflessness and service.”

By 7 a.m. the next day, Carper said everyone was exhausted from completing the 12-hour event but then they saw just how much they had raised for the Four Diamond Fund.

It was especially rewarding for the committee who spent the past 10 months preparing for the event to see the success, Carper said.

“It was an emotional time,” he said.

Those wishing to donate to the event still can do so until June 1.

And Carper said over the summer they again will begin planning already for next year’s MiniTHON.

But he also hopes, along with raising money and awareness, that more school districts will participate in a similar event.

“We want to encourage others and get it to spread,” Carper said.