Last week, I found myself heading up to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Commonly known as the sweetest place on earth, “Chocolatetown, USA” is home to the annual Mini-THON Leadership Summit, hosted by Four Diamonds ©. Four Diamonds © was established in 1972 at the Penn State Children’s Hospital to cover all the costs of treatment for all family’s there battling pediatric cancer. Since it’s inception they’ve cared for over 4,000 families, and their supporters have only grown in numbers. Based off of THON, a 42-hour dance marathon at Penn State University, Four Diamonds has launched their Mini-THON © program, helping schools establish their own chapters in their own communities, to bring awareness to pediatric cancer and help raise funds to support all of their incredible work.
In 2015, Urbana High School officially became the first school in Maryland to hold a Mini-THON, and it’s been growing ever since. At the same time, so has my involvement… from a dancer in 2015 to being given the honor of serving as the Executive Director of Operations for Urbana High School’s Mini-THON this last year. Along with my Co-Director, Executive Board, and numerous supporters, we were able to raise over $50,000 in 2017 for Four Diamonds. This addition put the total amount Urbana High School has raised in its first three years at over $100,000!
With college on the corner, I was honored to be invited to present at this year’s Leadership Summit and share what I’ve learned with the next generation of Mini-THONers. I was ecstatic to be able to present “Crushin’ Mini-THON,” a session dedicated to sharing all the tips and tricks I’ve learned, and to provide a template for creating an effective Mini-THON program. As the first school in Maryland, and still a relatively new program, we’ve faced incredible challenges, overcome countless adversities, and it was amazing to be able to share what I’ve learned with the students in my session. I had the opportunity to present on anything and everything a Mini-THON could ever need to run a successful program. We were able to look at committee structures, communication, outreach, and so much more. If you’d like to take a look at my presentation, simply follow this link: Crushin’ Mini-THON Presentation
The Leadership Summit was an incredible opportunity to connect with friends, but also an amazing networking opportunity with leaders in schools across the country. Having graduated and coming back as a presenter, I was able to attend the advisor sessions and had the opportunity to not only see the other side of running a Mini-THON but share my own experiences as a student director. The advisers I met were not only knowledgeable, but their passion was nothing less than astounding, both for Four Diamonds as well as their love for their students. To sit across from these incredible individuals and hear the incredible stories of the work their students were doing was humbling. Every person I met couldn’t help but share their love for their work, despite the ups and downs, they couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The best example of this was the Student Leadership Council and the staff from Four Diamonds that was in attendance. Hearing from them reaffirmed for me that not only did I belong here, but that anyone did, no matter what state or what school we originated from, everyone was welcome to join the fight for the kids.
More than anything, the Leadership Summit allowed me to see that my Mini-THON was in good hands. With college coming just around the corner, it’s been easy for me to lose faith in the organizations I’m leaving, but being able to see the drive and passion from each person I saw, showed me that even if I’m gone, Urbana’s Mini-THON will be just fine. I’ve loved my time in the Mini-THON program, and it’s taught me more than I could ever imagine, from how to run an organization, to writing project proposals, to the simple skill of time management.
I’m not sure what the future holds for me, and with this summit serving as the official end to my high school career, I can’t wait to see the new projects and organizations I’ll find myself wrapped up in. From student council to Mini-THON, and everything in between, I’ve loved my high school experience, but as those who came before I did, it’s time for me to pick my chin up, and use my experiences to drive me into the future, not keep me stuck in limbo. If this experience has shown me anything, it’s that my time with Mini-THON was not wasted, the lessons I learned and friends I made will be with me for a lifetime, and more importantly, I can have faith and know the next generation won’t let me down.