Four Diamonds: The Fund Behind THON

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THON has become a distinctive mark of the Penn State community, as the dance marathon is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. THON weekend is an incredible 46-hours filled with dancing, games and overall excitement as student-dancers take a stand for nearly two days with no sleeping or sitting. In recent years, Penn State has been able to raise over $10 million for Four Diamonds, a foundation with a mission to conquer childhood cancer through innovative research and support for families impacted by the disease.

Since THON began in 1973, each year more than 16,000 student volunteers and hundreds of organizations work to fundraise for the sole beneficiary of Four Diamonds at Penn State Children’s Hospital, based out of Hershey, Pennsylvania. For the past 40+ years of THON’s history, Four Diamonds’ relationship with the Penn State community has been strong and successful, and millions of dollars have gone toward aiding families. Almost every participating organization at THON has a Four Diamonds child, whose family gets to have a special relationship with the org. It has become an extremely unique and rewarding experience for campus organizations to be able to connect more personally to the cause and get even more involved in the foundation.

The origins of the Four Diamonds Fund begins in 1969 when a young 11-year-old Christopher Millard wrote a story before he passed away due to cancer. The story detailed a great knight who sought out the four diamonds of courage, wisdom, honesty and strength in order to be released from an evil sorceress. Christopher’s family believed that those same four diamonds were the key beliefs to overcoming cancer. You can read Christopher’s story here. Shortly after Christopher’s passing, his parents Charles and Irma Millard founded Four Diamonds in 1972 to assist children and their families in the fight against childhood cancer. They hoped that Christopher’s story and mission would serve as inspiration to all the children and families fighting cancer. 

In 1977, the Four Diamonds Fund and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center crafted a charter with the mission “of conquering childhood cancer by assisting children and their families through superior care, comprehensive support and innovative research.” In the same year, Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon united ‘For The Kids’ and named the foundation the sole beneficiary of all fundraising activities. Four Diamonds has proudly been able to live up to that mission each and every day. The foundation covers 100% of all medical expenses related to cancer care that is not covered by insurance to its Four Diamonds children, and even more spectacularly, it has been able to assist 100% of the children at Penn State Children’s Hospital. 

To date, THON has raised more than $168 million in the fight against childhood cancer through fundraising — an accomplishment increasing each and every year. United with one mission, Penn State and Four Diamonds has continued to inspire and empower people from all around the world to take a stand against childhood cancer. Together, Four Diamonds has been able to help more than 4,000 children and families live their lives to the fullest without the worries of hospital bills. With the funds raised, Four Diamonds and Penn State Children’s Hospital seeks to consistently improve treatments and benefit kids around the world with innovative cures with the hope that one day, childhood cancer will no longer exist. 

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