By Carly Guise
As students filed into the auditorium on Dec. 1, buzzing with excitement for the upcoming weekend, a little boy sat on the steps leading to the stage, eyeing up the crowd.
His name is Connor Rowan. He is in first grade at Locust Grove Elementary, and he is a cancer survivor.
The Rowan family is Red Lion Mini-THON’s sponsor family for the 2017-18 school year. They were introduced to the high school’s student body at the Mini-Thon kickoff assembly on Dec. 1.
Connor’s mom, Marianne Rowan spoke to students about her son’s cancer and how the Four Diamonds Fund assisted their family during Connor’s treatment and recovery.
“I can go on and on about how awful it was, how bad the pain was, how he lost his hair,” Mrs. Rowan said, “but we were really so fortunate to have been sent to Penn State Hershey… When your child gets sick, the last thing you want to think about is how you’re going to pay for it.”
The Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey partners with the Four Diamonds Fund. The fund covers every medical bill for all childhood cancer patients that receives treatment at the hospital.
The money that Four Diamonds uses to cover the medical bills and provides funds for research comes from THON, the dance marathon held at Penn State University, as well as the more than 265 Mini-THONs just like Red Lion’s that are held across eight states.
“One time a bill did slip through the system and find its way to our house,” Mrs. Rowan said. “Just one of Connor’s treatments cost $16,000. He was in and out of the hospital for months, there were countless procedures - I can’t even begin to imagine how much money the Four Diamonds Fund saved us.”
In the 2016-17 school year, the collective group of Mini-THONs across the country raised $6.4 million. Penn State’s THON raised over $10 million.
According to the website of the Four Diamonds Fund, 91 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to a child just like Connor who are fighting cancer.
“We wouldn’t wish this road on anybody, not even our worst enemy,” Mrs. Rowan said. As Connor spun around on stage, he hit his mother with his sweatshirt and the crowd giggled. “Because this Connor is the Connor that we love to see.”