By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Megan Schafer knows all too well the horrible effects cancer brings to families across the globe.
When she was in high school Schafer was informed that her younger cousin, Mary, was diagnosed with the petrifying disease. Since that day, Schafer vowed to do all she could to help Mary and all other individuals and families who have had to hear that chilling news about a loved one.
Ever since stepping on the Penn State campus three years ago, Schafer has made it her personal goal to dance for the cure, and for Mary, at THON by the time she graduated.
In just a few days that goal will come to fruition.
Schafer will be one of four student-athletes representing the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) in this year's dance marathon beginning February 17. She will be on her feet dancing for 46 hours straight, joining in the fight to one day defeat pediatric cancer.
"To be able to come to Penn State and do this and know how a school can come together like this, it's just such a cool thing to experience," Schafer said.
Her cousin Mary battled her way past the disease and is now in remission. There are many families, however, that aren't as lucky.
According to CureSearch.org, almost 16,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. Twelve percent of all children diagnosed do not survive.
That's what will keep Schafer on her feet all weekend.
Schafer's teammates, Angela Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas, participated as dancers last year and they've been a few of Schafer's biggest supporters. Schafer said being on the floor with them and experiencing THON from that perspective was the defining moment when she knew she wanted to dance herself.
She was on the floor more than half of the time last year, so taking on the full 46 hours seems more than doable in her mind.
Schafer believes she has an advantage over many of the dancers because of the physical shape she's in. Most dancers spend the week leading up to THON preparing their bodies for the toughest physical test they'll face.
As for Schafer, she doesn't think any pre-THON training is necessary. She said Penn State head coach Erica Dambach has aptly prepared her for this challenge with her conditioning programs. For Schafer, running sprints after practice will actually prove to be beneficial when it matters most.
Schafer said she knows fatigue is inevitable, but quitting isn't an option. She has to keep those children, like Mary, who have battled and defeated cancer without complaining about being tired throughout the entire process.
If they can fight the pain, she will be able to as well. She hopes her participation as a dancer will be the start of making sure every child diagnosed with cancer isn't beaten. She has seen up close a family member beat an unbelievable challenge, and Schafer believes it's possible for everyone with help from events like THON.
"If I'm ever feeling down or tired, I just have to think of why I'm
doing this," Schafer said. "It doesn't matter how many hours, I'm going to be
able to do it because it's for such a good cause.