Location: Harrisburg, PA
Connection to Four Diamonds: Chris is a former Four Diamonds patient from 1982. Melissa is a Four Diamonds Nurse Specialist – we married in the year 2000 after meeting at a pediatric oncology camp where we both volunteered, and we have supported THON and Four Diamonds together since 1999.
Years of Involvement: Chris, as a patient from 1982-1984 and then as a survivor and family starting in 1999. Melissa has been a Four Diamonds nurse since 1998 after graduating from Penn State.
How are/were you involved with Four Diamonds and THON?
Currently, outside of Melissa’s work involvement we also have a team each year for the Conquer Run to help raise money for Four Diamonds. We also adopt a student THON committee each year to learn more about what the THON students do, and ensure that they are educated about pediatric cancers and long-term survivorship issues, as well as additional questions they have about pediatric cancers. Our goal is to help students connect their mission to real-life patient situations.
We also work really hard to support the students on a student level and show support as a veteran family and staff of Four Diamonds. We also participate and support some Mini-THONs as well.
Why is the partnership between Four Diamonds and THON important?
The partnership between Four Diamonds and THON is absolutely critical. If there is not collaborative and cohesive communication and mutual respect, neither could exist. We need to continue to value this mutual relationship and maintain open communication from both sides so that all of the families can be served well, the students can feel appreciated and the Four DIamonds staff can be involved.
What is your favorite memory?
We have two favorite memories! Our first favorite memory from THON was getting the opportunity to speak as a couple at the kickoff dinner a few years ago. We were finally able to thank the student volunteers from the bottom of our hearts for the selfless and hard work they do year-round raising money for the kids and for Four Diamonds. We were able to thank them as a family and staff, so it felt extra special.
Our second favorite memory was from last year. We had adopted the PR committee two years in a row because those students don’t really get hands-on family connections, so we wanted to offer our help. What we didn’t expect was the relationships that we built with so many of these PR captains. They became part of our forever family. On their own, these students learned some sign language so that our son could be involved in a special part of THON with them. He also was an honorary member of productions at THON last year, and those memories are just priceless to us. We can only imagine the support the on-therapy, off-therapy, bereaved and survivor families receive each year from VOLUNTEER students.
What is your dream for Four Diamonds and THON over the next 40 years?
In a perfect world, we would love to see no more cancer and no more need for THON or the Four Diamonds Fund, but we know that is not a reality right now. Our dream is to continue to see the relationship between Four Diamonds and THON continue for many many years. We hope it continues to strengthen and be energized, and that all the positive energy THON creates helps the fight for a cure from childhood cancer, as well as fighting for better treatments, new treatments, and support survivors so that they can live healthy and fulfilled lives as adults.
We would also like to see veteran families give back to THON students throughout the years and help support the organization that helped them so much through treatments.