Series note: This is the third in five-part series featuring THON families in different stages of their THON experience.
For Rachael Clouser, there is nothing in the world like THON. About one week before THON 2012, she became a part of the special interest organization Boulevard’s family.
Clouser, a 17-year-old THON child, will attend the Intrafraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon for the second time this year.
“I feel blessed because you can’t find anything like it in the world,” Clouser said. “[THON] is a huge eye-opener. It’s a miracle.”
Clouser suffered frequent seizures when a scan revealed a “rare but treatable” tumor, Tina Seklecki, Boulevard family relations chair, said.
In the summer of 2011, Clouser suffered a stroke after the removal of the tumor at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center, her mother, Leslie Schild, said. Clouser is still receiving therapy, Schild said.
Schild said she likes how THON weekend is about the entire family, as having a child with cancer affects each member of the family.
“For a weekend, we weren’t thinking about cancer,” Schild said. “We were just having fun.”
Reed Taylor, Boulevard THON chair, said because Clouser is 17, his organization has formed a more personal connection with her as well as the family. Schild’s two other children, Aaron, 13, and Emily, 5, provide Boulevard with a little bit of everything because of their difference in age, Taylor (junior-chemical engineering) said.
“Emily has enough energy for all three combined,” Seklecki (junior- communications sciences and disorders) said.
Taylor said members of Boulvard see the family at least once a month, whether it’s having a barbeque in the summer, canning at their house or making gingerbread houses during Christmas time.
“It’s like sitting down and talking with a friend,” Taylor said about talking to Clouser.
And Schild said being paired with Boulevard is a “perfect match.” Her son, Aaron, said he is excited to see the organization again this year.
“We’ve come so far, and they’re like our family in a way,” Aaron said.
Clouser said Boulevard is growing, and that more people want to get involved with the organization. Clouser’s mother said she enjoys getting to know all of the members, including Boulevard President Matthew Bellingeri, who is also the Collegian’s assistant photo editor.
“They’ve become a part of our family,” Schild said. “I call them my kids.”
Both Seklecki and Taylor said they plan on keeping in touch with the family, even after graduation.
“We’ve formed a relationship that won’t just go away,” Taylor said.
As for Clouser’s future, she plans on going to vocational school to become a dental assistant. Seklecki said Clouser is already buying books to get ready for school.