UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — At THON 2018, Tara Jacobs cheered on her fellow nursing students from the sidelines. This year, she's dancing "For The Kids" — and for her late father.
"Ever since my freshman year, I have truly wanted to dance in THON," said Jacobs, now a senior. "I served on a committee both freshman and sophomore years, as well as being involved in the Student Nurses' Association of Pennsylvania at Penn State (SNAPS) THON efforts, so I got to see what it was all about.
"My junior year, we received a new THON family, the Steigelmans. I was lucky to be doing my clinical experience at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center at this time, so I was able to visit Lucas when he was receiving treatment or came in with a fever. I became very close with them and welcomed the chance to be a positive distraction for Lucas. I spent a clinical rotation on the pediatrics oncology floor, where I was able to help even more Four Diamonds kids and families."
A Chalfont, Pennsylvania native, Jacobs said getting involved in THON represents for her a truly personal commitment to the fight against cancer.
"My dad always supported my efforts in THON, exclaiming how proud he was that I took part in something so much bigger than myself," she said. "In February 2018 — the week after THON took place — he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Suddenly, my entire world was taken over by that one word: cancer. I truly understood how a diagnosis impacts a family and I finally could grasp what Luke and his family have been going through. In July, after a courageous and hard fight, my dad lost his battle with AML.