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Principal Gets Personal at Mini-THON Kick-Off

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Dr. Cooper speaks at the 2018 Mini-THON Kickoff Pep Rally about his brother, who died from cancer.

Dr. Cooper speaks at the 2018 Mini-THON Kickoff Pep Rally about his brother, who died from cancer.

Colin Seidel

Colin Seidel

Dr. Cooper speaks at the 2018 Mini-THON Kickoff Pep Rally about his brother, who died from cancer.

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To kick off the 2018 Mini-THON pep rally, Principal Dr. Brett Cooper once again gave a sentimental speech about his older brother who died from cancer when he was 14.

Dr. Cooper had given the speech at the annual pep rally two years ago. This time, however, having his parents in attendance and a picture of his brother projected on a screen as he spoke made it extra personal.

“He taught me about the importance of family, perseverance and courage,” he said.

Before Dr. Cooper spoke, Min-THON Chairperson Taylor Bianchini announced the goal for this year’s March 2-3 Mini-THON, which benefits the Four Diamonds Foundation, is $50,000. That’s higher than last year’s $45,000 goal. Over $10,000 already has been raised so far, Student Council Advisor Mr. Jeff Kusniez said.

Students raise money by asking people to sponsor them for dancing from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday. Students are required to stand for the full 12-hours.
In addition to dancing at the event, students participate in activities such as a moonbounce, an hourly line dance, a volleyball tournament, a dodgeball tournament, and eating plenty of food that is provided. This year’s theme is Disney’s Toy Story.

 

After Bianchini gave information about the event, Dr. Cooper repeated his emotional story about “a family of six people, who had a son that was diagnosed with cancer”.

The boy was first diagnosed with cancer in his kidney at 7. After going through chemotherapy, radiation and a kidney removal, “the cancer was gone”.

Although he could no longer play sports and participate in activities with a lot of physical contact, the boy made the best of his life and found other interests such as the school play, Dr. Cooper said.

However, about five years later, walking home from theater practice, the boy felt tired. He went to the doctor and found the cancer had returned in his lungs.

Dr. Cooper eventually revealed the boy was his older brother. He said when he heard about his brother’s cancer returning, he went into his brother’s room and started bawling.

“I remember it like it was just yesterday,” he said. He remembers his brother’s brave response: “Why are you crying, you’re not the one with cancer?”

His brother fought for another year, Dr. Cooper said, before the disease took him.

Before dying, his brother and the entire family was able to go to Disney World, thanks to The Sunshine Foundation, an organization similar to the one Mini-THON supports.

One especially inspiring moment on the trip was when his brother, despite being in a wheelchair, went on Space Mountain, Dr. Cooper said. Despite signs warning people with poor health about riding, his brother said, “‘‘I’m going on this ride’,” Dr. Cooper said, “and he stood up and went on that ride.”

Dr. Cooper said he shared his story so students would understand how important organizations like Four Diamonds are to families. “I wanted you to know what you are doing it for.”

The Four Diamonds Fund assists children treated for cancer at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and their families. The fund also supports research.
Mini-THON replicates the Penn State THON on a smaller scale. In the past year, 100 schools hosted events, raising more than $2 million for the Four Diamonds Fund.

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