While the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon has been going on since 1973, the Lightner family is attending for its second time.
Holly and Dan Lightner’s son, Austin, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January of 2010 at the Medical University of South Carolina, when he was only two years old, Dan said. Since then, he has been receiving treatment.
After Austin was diagnosed in South Carolina, the Lightner family decided to move back to Pennsylvania because Dan was between jobs. Since Holly and Dan both had family in Pennsylvania, they decided to move to Carlisle.
Once settled in Carlisle, the Lightners took their son to the Milton Hershey Medical Center to receive treatment for ALL.
While Austin received treatment at Hershey Medical Center, the family was introduced to the Four Diamonds Fund and to Penn State’s THON. Since their son had pediatric cancer, they were able to become involved with THON and the Four Diamonds Fund.
“We heard about THON from a social worker at Hershey,” Holly said. “Once we were with the Four Diamonds Fund, we became connected with THON.”
The Lightner family is a THON family of the Penn State Mont Alto campus, and they first went to THON last year. The Mont Alto THON organization joins other THON organizations every year at the Bryce Jordan Center for THON weekend, and the Lightner family went with them as their THON family for the first time in 2012.
Zeb Thorson, a dancer and captain this year for Mont Alto THON, said the Lightner family also attends THON meetings for Mont Alto THON, and that the organization captains visit the family once a month to see the kids.
“The way [the family members are] dealing with everything is amazing, especially under all of the stress they have,” Thorson (junior-human development and family studies) said.
During its first THON experience, the family was able to attend events that benefit the Four Diamonds Fund and THON, such as the Family Carnival and THON Hoops. They also went to THON at the Bryce Jordan Center during THON weekend.
While at THON, the Lightner family enjoyed different activities during the event, and their two sons were able to meet and play with members of the Penn State football team, which Holly said the boys enjoyed.
But — for the Lightner family — that was not the only highlight for the weekend.
“The [total] reveal is the highlight of the weekend, but there’s so much to do and so much going on during that weekend,” Holly said.
Holly said the family will be at THON weekend again this year, and that her two sons, Austin, who is now 5, and Evan, 3, are looking forward to another THON weekend.
Holly said she is excited for the total reveal, showcasing the total amount of money raised for the Four Diamonds Fund at the end of THON weekend.