Fellow Nittany Lions can’t help but lend a friendly supportive hand whenever the slightest bit of need is detected. When Deb Fiscella, of Center Stage Marketing told me over lunch at The Hamilton last year that she, as a proud Penn State alum, was going to challenge herself by raising $50,000 for the THON/Four Diamonds Fund by the time she turned 50 (countdown, 80 days to go) first, I said, “YOU ARE TURNING 50?” I touched my face. I always thought Deb was my age, which would make her 10 years younger. Then I said (rather incredulously), “FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS?” She answered, she knew it sounded off the wall, maybe crazy, but she really wanted to do something “I’d never done before.”
We met again for coffee recently and I asked her how it was going. Deb told me she wanted to wait until THON was over before she went full court press. In case you don’t know what THON is, it’s Dance Marathon at Penn State, which raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund and is largest student-run philanthropy in the world. As an alum myself, I too “canned” for three years all over NJ, PA, and even in DC, once we hosted a canning trip at my parents’ Fairfax home. Students spend an entire year raising money for the fight against pediatric cancer. Since 1977, THON has raised more than $100 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and this year, THON raised over $12 million. Granted, back in my day (1990-94) we raised over $1 million which was huge. The 48 hours when the students dance at the Bryce Jordan Center is filled with emotion and strength and bonding.
Deb was involved with the THON Morale Committee for three years and she said, back then, THON was in the White Building, it wasn’t as huge as it is now, by far. That was the mid 80’s. The Morale Committee helps the dancers during those challenging 48 hours by rubbing their feet, playing games, giving them massages during shifts before the dancers switched to get back onto the floor. They were raising at the time over $200,000. We laughed at how the power of THON has only multiplied every year and who would have thought the students reached OVER $12 million IN ONE YEAR.
“When I was a senior, my band (yes, I was in a rock band-I was a singer) played during THON,” Deb told me, as she showed me some photos on Facebook. “I mean, I could have thought of raising money for anything, but I really feel such a passion and connection to THON and the Four Diamonds Fund, so I knew I wanted to help them out. Also, why raise $10,000? or $20,000? Why not just go for it and raise $50,000, you know, it made sense: 50K for the Kids.”
She went directly to the Four Diamonds Fund, who had never had one person ever attempt to do such a feat. They sent her give aways like necklaces with the Four Diamonds symbol, keychains, gold ribbons (for pediatric cancer) and let her create her own fundraising page. “I can’t talk about THON without getting tears in my eyes. I mean, you are talking about 15,000 students, humbly getting together to make a better future for children with cancer. In 1984, we even got a blessing from the Pope!” Deb continued to speak passionately about why she believes this is something she had to do. “The money also goes into the research facility, so it doesn’t matter where you live, I mean, you might think, I live in Wisconsin, why do I care about a cancer facility in Pennsylvania? Well, that money goes finding a cure-to developing treatments and finding cures for any child with cancer.
How has her efforts reception been since she went public? “It’s been really overwhelming. Everyone has said, ‘how can I help you achieve this goal?'” Even the local alumni association chapter has given its nod by featuring her in November in the newsletter. “Now is the countdown! I have 80 days! We are tweeting, I have a Facebook page, it’s really important to let everyone know, every dollar counts.”
Expect some events around town and who knows… maybe even some singing from the veteran songbird.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a platform for profiling people who "make it happen" in the Capital region, reviews & topical blog posts. She launched Punch Enterprises, a connector consulting business in 2015 and Pacific Punch based in LA, in 2012. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, VA. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.