Why I THON™ – Jackie Schwartz
Jackie Schwartz has known about THON for most of her life.
Growing up with a dad who attended Penn State, Schwartz said THON became a part of her life as a kid and has stuck with her ever since. Growing up in Connecticut, Schwartz said her dad donated to canners and explained the importance of THON to her.
“Before coming to Penn State, I knew I wanted to get involved in THON as it is something that is so close to my heart,”Schwartz said.
Since coming to Penn State, Schwartz was a Rules and Regulations (R&R) committee member during her freshman year, an Event Safety Training and Development Captain her sophomore year, an Administrative Assistant and Committee Relations and Canvassing Captain her junior year and she is currently the Hershey Tour and Committee Events Coordinator.
At the young age of six, Schwartz said she can still recall her feelings of helplessness as she watched her mom struggle with the onset of cancer. It wasn’t for another two years and many tests when Schwartz’s mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Because I was so young, the only thing I could do was rub holy water blessed from the Vatican on my mom’s back,” Schwartz said. “My twin sister and I massaged her every night hoping that one day her pain would go away.”
Schwartz said she watched her mom endure 6 long months of chemotherapy, wishing there was something more she could do than show her mom love and support. Even though her mom has since been 14 years cancer-free, her family is reminded of the dark time every year as they pray for her mom’s tests to come back cancer-free.
“No family should ever have to go through this immense fear,”Schwartz said.
When Schwartz’s mother was sick, she said she realized the best gift she could give her mom was support and she found that THON offers that same support to families impacted by cancer around the world.
“I THON for every family to give them a little bit of magic, support, love and hope,”Schwartz said.
For the past four years, Schwartz said each THON weekend has been more meaningful and special than the last. Her favorite THON memory occurred last THON weekend as she and her co-captains walked families to the BJC from the Lasch Building.
“When we first walked into Lasch, I was taken aback by how special it was,” Schwartz said. “Seeing athletes play with children and use the workout machines as a playground was amazing. It showed how much imagination a child really has. The joy on the faces of the athletes, families, and children was breathtaking.”
As an R&R Captain at the time, Schwartz said she was helping a mother and her twin boys cross the street safely. She remembers holding one of the little boys and talking with the mom the whole walk back. Once they arrived back at the lounge, Schwartz said both three-year-old boys gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“At 3 years old, these boys took my heart,” Schwartz said. “Having seen them so happy to be with the big football players, to chatting with their mom about how special THON is, to the kiss on the cheek and seeing them run back into the family lounge where they were hugged by FR Captains was why this event is so special.”
Even though the interaction was only 15 minutes, Schwartz still remembers it to be one of her most impactful THON memories where she was fully engaged in helping the family.
In her four years being a part of THON, Schwartz said her biggest takeaway is to be empathetic towards everyone because ‘you never know what someone else is going through.’
“THON gives families a reason to smile through the hardest part of their lives, which will never end after treatment,” Schwarts said. “It provides children a safe place to run around and be happy without the fear of people looking at them funny.”