Yaure said she was moved by a presentation given by Zia Caterina, whose partner, Stefano, a Florence taxi driver, died of cancer in 2001. He left Caterina his taxi, which she uses to drive young cancer patients and their families to hospitals and other places for free. She also provides entertainment in the hospital and raises funds for them. Those who hitch a ride in her “Milano 25” taxi are welcome to add a donation for children to the fare.
Caterina was told about THON, and the idea to bring such an event to Italy “started percolating,” said Yaure, adding that the caring cabbie has been a part of the planning process from the beginning. In fact, the charity she runs — Milano 25 ONG — paired with the International Studies Institute (ISI Florence) to plan the inaugural Florence Dance for Kids.
The ISI was established in 2001 as an independent private educational organization serving as an American educational center in Florence. Four years later, it created the Consortium for Public Universities, of which Penn State is a member.
Funds from the Feb. 22 dance will go to Caterina’s organization and the Trento Proton Therapy Centre, where young patients are offered new treatments for cancer.
Yaure said students from London, Spain and Rome expressed interest in being part of the THON in Florence after hearing about it through their friends and social media. She said 30 students have signed up to help with the THON-esque event in Italy, particularly with the social networking side of it.
While they are having life-changing experiences in faraway places, a lot of Penn State students studying abroad said they miss all of the events happening on their campuses, said Yaure. Having a fundraising dance in Florence is one way to give them a taste of home.
Yaure will be present when the participants gather together in the palace, dating to the 14th or 15th century, which serves as the seat of city government there. She hopes there might even be a flash mob in the nearby piazza.
Yaure is communicating with the students in Italy as plans progress.
“We’re winging it at this point,” she said with a laugh, adding that one of her colleagues, Robyn Chotiner, adjunct professor of psychology at PSUMA, has been extremely helpful.
Ultimately, Yaure would love Dance for Kids to enjoy the longevity of THON, which began in the late 1970s.
“That would be my dream, to see it go on,” she said.
Back at University Park, students on 16 committees specialize in different areas of the planning logistics and execution of THON’s year-round campaigns, fundraising and events, including THON weekend, said Dan Mele, public-relations director for this year’s THON. Among the many activities offered over the 46 hours are stage acts, inspirational speakers, children with cancer demonstrating their talent and fashion sense, and a pep rally featuring Penn State athletes showing off their best dance moves.