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THON annual Family Carnival becomes tradition for a family of 4


The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, commonly referred as THON, held its annual family carnival on Penn State's campus.

UNIVERSITY PARK – The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, commonly referred as THON, held its annual family carnival on Penn State's campus.

THON is a student-run philanthropic group committed to helping families impacted by childhood cancer.

Around noon, kids come running down a tunnel full of student volunteers as the crowd cheers on them and their families. The THON Family Carnival welcomed Four Diamond families and volunteers for a day full of dancing, games and fun activities. A Four Diamond family has medical bills fully covered by THON and receive superior care, comprehensive support and innovative research.

As the music filled the campus' White Building, smiles were on the faces of the Four Diamond Families kids and their loved ones.

"The main point of family carnival is to giving these families an escape from everything that they're going through right now, and kind of just giving them a place where they feel like they can be safe and have a lot of fun," THON Special Events Captain Cath Kutys said.

This year's carnival had a military theme, called Unite the Fight.

"Really just uniting the whole THON community as one is what we really wanted to focus on this year," Kutys said.

The way THON raises money for these families; they want to return the favor with attending events. One family of four says this is one of their favorite events to participate in.

"The kids seem to have a really great time just having no worries," mother Tami Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez' son, Layn Burger, was diagnosed with cancer in august of 2006 right before his first birthday. After Burger was diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumor, their family turned to Penn State Children’s Hospital.

"First year for us was THON 2007, and we've been coming ever since," Rodriguez said.

She says Penn State's Four Diamonds covered medical cost of Layn's treatment. The doctors notified Rodriguez that the medical bills are covered along with the experimental treatment for her son.

Years later and now Layn and his family have made a tradition to patriciate in THON activities.

"It feels great," Four Diamonds child Layn Burger said.

His parents say it's amazing to see Penn State and the foundation step in the way they did to help them.

"It's so much love here, everybody just shows so much respect,” Layn’s father Rafael Rodriguez said. “It's awesome."

This family fun day is reinforces the yearlong efforts to emotionally and financially support families. As for the Land Burger family, they say they plan on participating in THON weekend in February.

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