Chords of the song “Happy Birthday” could be heard echoing through the HUB-Robeson Center yesterday in support of a little girl fighting cancer hundreds of miles away in a hospital bed.
After an outpouring of support for THON child Emily Whitehead appeared on Twitter Monday night, many Penn State students and the THON community have been watching her Facebook page, “Prayers for Emily Whitehead, a 6-year old fighting leukemia,” for updates on her condition and continuing to tweet the hashtag #PrayingForEm.
Angela Mancuso decided to do something extra, however, especially since Emily will be celebrating her seventh birthday on May 2.
Mancuso (junior-public relations) started the Facebook event “Purple Out/Birthday Song for Emily Whitehead!” in honor of Emily’s birthday. Her hope was to gather a big group of people in the HUB and record them wishing Emily happy birthday in song.
Mancuso is a part of the Penn State chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America, of which Emily is the THON child. She plans on sending the video to the Whitehead family to show them the support garnered behind them.
“The best thing is to build an army behind to show them they aren’t alone,” Mancuso said. “We wanted everyone to wear all purple and come together in one place, even if it was just for a few seconds.”
So, yesterday afternoon, more than 100 people gathered in the HUB wearing purple — Emily’s favorite color — and sang happy birthday to Emily in support of her and her fight against acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Emily is currently at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia battling through a relapse that began this past February. She received a T-cell transfusion on April 17 but has been struggling with complications since April 19 when she was admitted to CHOP.
According to the most recent Facebook post at 1:15 p.m. and as of press time, her father Tom said the doctors told them not to get their hopes up, but that Emily was not getting any worse.
“He said you can’t get better until you stop getting worse,” Tom wrote. “He said Emily is no longer getting worse and is starting toward getting better.”
Annelise Gaus and Meredith Moore heard about the event on Facebook and from the president of the Penn State Singing Lions, which they are both involved in.
Gaus (sophomore-advertising) said she was surprised and happy with the turnout of people.
“We wish Emma the best of luck and are sending prayers her way,” Gaus said.
Moore, who was also involved on the Morale committee this past THON, thought the idea was “really cute,” and said she was happy she went.
“We want to support [the kids] throughout the year,” Moore said.
Mancuso continues to remain positive and said there is “a lot of hope” for Emily. She encourages everyone to continue following the Facebook and CaringBridge web pages and sending encouraging words to the Whitehead family.
“We’re all in this together, it’s not just Emily’s fight,” Mancuso said. “It’s all our fight.”