As you probably know, my sister and I dedicated a lot of my time at Penn State to an event called THON that raises money for kids with cancer through The Four Diamonds Fund.
My time at Penn State and with THON was one of the best times of my life and truly helped me to grow as a person. Being an alum and entering the work force, I have had serious withdrawal from Happy Valley and the THON family! This dance marathon I experienced every February was an experience too powerful for words. It is there that we, PSU students and Four Diamonds Families, danced with passion and with hope to find a cure...and to give these kids one weekend to forget about the hospitals, the doctors, the treatments, the medicine and allow them to just be a kid, as they rarely are able to do. Every year, I continued to fall deeper in love with the spirit of THON and the Four Diamonds Families.
The Four Diamonds Fund led me to the Hope Express and then to the Emily Whitehead Foundation.
Since I began running, I have always run with the purpose of running for others, especially Lexi. I met Lexi in November of 2010 after she and her family were paired with The Singing Lions (my college show choir singing group) through the THON Adopt a Family Program. The connection was instant. Even though Lexi was suffering from Stage 4 Neuroblastoma, you never would have known because her zest for life and sassy attitude made her the perfect six-year-old friend to a bunch of crazy college kids. Unfortunately, Lexi's cancer spread that year, and she passed away 9 months later, just one month short of her 7th birthday. Since then, I've grown passionate about spreading her legacy with the world. Her instant spark was contagious. I learned more from her in our short year together than I did in any classroom. She taught me so many lessons through the Four Diamonds that I keep close to my heart every single day. Her honesty encourages me to always stay true to my word. Her wisdom inspires me to keep learning. Her courage makes me brave to try new things, and her strength empowers me to wake up every day and be the best that I can be. She touched my life forever. Whenever I see a butterfly or a pink sky, I'm instantly reminded of our beautiful memories together. Each moment that I spend with her brothers, her grandmother and mother, it inspires me to make the world a better place. One of the ways that I can make this world a better place is to run my fifth half marathon in the city of Brotherly Love for the Emily Whitehead Foundation.
I started running in the spring of 2012 after my first year as a moraler with the Hope Express. My runner that year, Natalie Hricik, inspired me to try running (telling me anyone could do it, which I hardly believed) so I signed up for a 5K that May. I believed that was the hardest thing that I would ever do, but I worked hard to run the whole race because I connected Hope Express and running to THON and my time with Lexi so I wanted to make Lexi proud. The next year, I continued running, started taking care of myself, lost a lot of weight and got my body into better shape. I then challenged myself with a 10K, then a year later with a half marathon. I've never been more proud to spread Lexi's life story than when I run. When I run, I wear her button or her tshirt and I feel as though she is immediately back with us and proving her strength as a Four Diamonds Child. I feel as though my strength to run proves her strength to fight cancer. That's why I began running, as a way of proving that we, as a cancer fighting group and even bigger community, are stronger than cancer. The only way that can fight for a cure is to do it together. Together for Lexi and for all the kids.
Running 13.1 with the Emily Whitehead Foundation is my opportunity to continue to give back to these families that have given me so much – a greater meaning to life. These kids teach everyone to live life with a purpose every day – they are true heroes. I appreciate the support of my friends and families to support me in this endeavor to continue Lexi's legacy.