Just dance: Sweat, tears and stretching goes into two students’ journey to THON

Clay Cooper has been stretching twice a day, every day for the past several weeks. The fifth-year MD/MBA student began running on the treadmill again and got as much sleep as he could.

It’s all part of the preparation for dancing in his first THON.

“I started doing P90X yoga, which is an hour and a half,” added Emma Dahmus, another MD/MBA student and first-year THON dancer. “I also bought compression socks.”

She needed them.

The 46-hour dance marathon was a test of endurance and determination as more than 700 Penn State students took to the dance floor Feb. 16-18 at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park. They helped raise more than $10.1 million for the fight against childhood cancer. THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Since 1973, THON has raised approximately $150 million for children’s cancer care and research at Penn State Children’s Hospital.

According to THON officials, the money raised this year can support:

  • 50,758 hours of nutritional therapy
  • 67,678 days of outpatient treatment
  • 13,536 lab experiments
  • 6,768 days for a team to manage all patient needs
  • 13,536 routine maintenance visits for treatment and therapy for a child

The proceeds from THON ensure that nearly 600 Children’s Hospital patients who have been diagnosed with cancer can receive the most advanced care at no cost to their families. THON funds also fuel the work of the Four Diamonds Pediatric Cancer Research Center – whose faculty scientists and clinical researchers are members of Penn State Cancer Institute – to better understand, treat and cure pediatric cancers.

Cooper and Dahmus are not only classmates in the MD/MBA program, they are lifelong friends with a personal connection to Four Diamonds, THON’s sole beneficiary. In 2007, both were on the student council that started Mini-THON at Lower Dauphin High School in Hummelstown. Since 1993, Mini-THON events throughout the commonwealth have raised $23 million for Four Diamonds.

“Emma and I were neighbors when we were little and knew a child in our neighborhood who had cancer and whose family was supported by Four Diamonds,” recalls Cooper. “Unfortunately, the child didn’t survive.”

They’ve known others throughout the years who have battled cancer, both successfully and not, and work with Four Diamonds patients as students in Penn State College of Medicine’s MD program.

Read more about the involvement of Cooper and Dahmus in THON 2018 in this Penn State Medicine article.

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Last Updated February 21, 2018