Hunter Leisey is dancing for a myriad of reasons, one of which is instantly apparent just by taking a look at him.
On the front of his shirt reads a simple slogan: “Survivor.”
That one word tells a story of a kid who once battled with Acute Myeloid Leukemia for nearly two years, before finally being pronounced as cancer-free six years ago.
The freshman is a former Four Diamonds THON child, and — like many other survivors — has a deep connection to the annual event.
Leisey is attending THON for a fifth consecutive year, and his initial experience with the Four Diamonds foundation was one that proved to be transformational for an ninth-grade boy in remission.
“I was paired up with the Ski Club at Penn State while I was going through the worst of my treatment,” Leisey said. “They were so great to me, and the Four Diamonds fund was an amazing help to my parents by covering the costs and making sure we didn’t have to worry about anything else.”
Currently in his first year at Penn State Berks, Leisey never thought he would get the chance to dance in his first ever THON weekend as a Penn State student.
It is usually atypical for a freshman to get the chance to be a dancer, and the opportunity is not something that is lost on Leisey.
“I certainly didn’t expect to be able to dance in my freshman year,” Leisey said. “It’s been a dream of mine to come back to THON and dance for the first time, and now I get to live that dream.”
Even outside of being a dancer, this specific THON weekend has a little bit of extra meaning for Leisey.
The Pennsylvania native has gone through his first five years at this event as someone who is living proof of the mission of THON and what the Four Diamonds foundation is trying to achieve.
This time around — instead of just identifying as a survivor — Leisey is approaching the event with a different perspective.
“I’ve been able to meet other survivors and listen to their stories,” he said. “To me, the most important part of my experience with THON this year is the chance for me to start giving back to the kids. After all, I was in their position at one point and I know how much this event can help those that need it.”
On the subject of giving back, Leisey has already committed to remaining involved with his organization throughout his time at Penn State and hopes to be back on the Bryce Jordan Center floor next February.
Undaunted by the many consecutive hours of dancing ahead, Leisey is looking forward to the rest of the weekend and will be sharing stories of this experience for years to come.
“When I look back in life, this will be something that I’ll share with my friends and family,” he said. “I’ll be proud of this forever.”