Julia Test and Kendall Lashinsky

THON Dancer Julie Test, left, and nine year old Kendall Lashinsky both committed to donating the hair they had cut at the THON Hair Auction to organizations that make real-hair wigs for those dealing with illness related hair loss.

Image: Garrett Roen

Hair Auction Nets Thousands for THON

A total of $7,013 was raised for THON on Thursday evening at the Penn State DuBois THON Dancer Sendoff Dinner. A silent auction, and the main event, a hair auction, brought in these funds that top off the campus total to date of $22,567 raised towards THON's university wide effort for this year.

This event is held each year to give the campus THON Dancers a fitting sendoff as they depart for the Byrce Jordan Center for THON. Students representing DuBois as the official campus dancers this year are Alaina Shaffer of Clearfield, Brynn Morgan of Grampian, and Julia Test of Curwensville. They'll attempt to stay on their feet for 46 hours straight with dancers from all of Penn State's locations, from Friday until Sunday

THON is Penn State's dance marathon, and the world's largest student-run philanthropic event. It raises millions of dollars each year benefiting the Four Diamonds Fund. A leader in the fight against pediatric cancer, the Four Diamonds Fund fills in the funding gaps that insurance leaves for the patients it serves, enabling families to focus on caring for their child. Additionally, THON's support allows Penn State Hershey Hospital to recruit world-class talent to continue innovative research, and to maintain and expand the state-of-the-art Children’s Hospital.

Volunteers for the THON Hair Auction this year were Assistant Professor of Mathematics John Tolle, student Tristan Bressler, THON Dancer Julie Test, and nine year old Kendall Lashinsky, daughter of Assistant Director of Enrollment Services Holli Lashinsky. Both Test and Lashinsky also committed to donating their hair to organizations that produce wigs from real hair for people who suffer hair loss due to cancer treatments or other illnesses.

"I just want to make other kids happy.  I don’t want them to be sad because they don’t have hair," said Kendall Lashinsky, an advocate who stands out in supporting THON's slogan "For the Kids", being a kid herself. Besides raising $1,300 for the cause, she is also donating the eight inches of hair she had cut to the Pantene Company's Beautiful Lengths program. The program provides real-hair wigs, free of charge, for women experiencing hair loss while battling cancer.

"The children who have cancer have enough to deal with.  I’m not sad to cut my hair only because I know it will go to someone who needs it more than I do," Kendall continued. "It will be a big change and something new for me, but a child who has no hair because of cancer has a bigger change than what I will have.  My hair will grow back, but it may take a long time for theirs to grow back.  I hope I can make other children happy."

Kendall's mother, Holli, said, "My heart is just so full over this. I am overwhelmed with emotion when I see Kendall’s compassion and empathy for others. She can see someone who has cancer and might lose their hair, and she just wants to find a way to help in any capacity she can. She makes me so proud to be her mother."

Test raised $1,550. In addition to that contribution for THON, she chose to donate her hair to the group Children with Hair Loss, which makes one free wig per year for each child they serve until the child turns 21. She said, "I am participating in the hair auction because I set a goal last summer to dance. I said that if I reached that goal, I would donate my hair if I could find an organization that would like the length I wanted to donate. I decided that I would donate 10 inches to this amazing organization because I know that there are so many children out there who need it more than I do."

As a dancer, volunteer, and hair donor, Test summed up her experience saying, "To me, THON is the most incredible union of people to join forces to fight pediatric cancer. THON becomes a prominent aspect of thousands of lives; those fighting, the families, friends, and medical staffs all supporting the children. From the help of THON and Four Diamonds, we are able to help those families focus on their children, defeat cancer, and live the life they are meant to live. THON is life changing to everyone involved; volunteers, club members, dancers, the families. Knowing that I have changed someone's life by raising money, donating my hair, and dancing for 46 hours will always be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life."

Bressler and Tolle both ended up completely bald at the end of the hair auction, losing all hair, as well as their beards.  Bressler's effort netted $700 for THON, and Tolle's shave brought in an additional $1,700.  As a faculty member who has participated in the hair auction numerous times, John Tolle added, "If you go to YouTube and type 'Why We Dance', you'll find a documentary that explains the work of THON and the Four Diamonds Fund, and I dare you not to cry.  This is our students' pride and joy, and rightly so.  Every year I'm thrilled to see how dedicated our students are to this cause, and the example they set, in terms of service, for all young people.  As for me, I'm really good at growing hair, so this is the least I can do to help."

DuBois raised $27,616.47 last year, ranking number nine among the Commonwealth Campus locations for funds raised, and contributing to the university-wide THON total of $10,045,478.44.  THON began in 1973, when dancers raised just over $2,000.