Why Create The Hope Express?
Connie is a 1990 Penn State graduate, yet it took a diagnosis of Leukemia in their son, Gabriel, for them to become aware of The Four Diamonds Fund. Over the years, they have thrown change in the cans on canning weekends, never really understanding the magnitude of what these kids do every year for Four Diamonds Families.
Hope Express is a tribute to the Four Diamonds kids and their families. By running 135 miles through central Pennsylvania, the participants will raise awareness for The Four Diamonds Fund while honoring the courageous battle these families fight every day.
For Hank and Connie, it is not so easy to explain the ‘why’. They are a Four Diamonds family and experience first hand the affect THON has on the families. They could not have endured such hardships without the support from the kids at THON, our family sponsor The Student Red Cross Club and The Four Diamonds Fund. All of these organizations have brought sunshine to many cloudy days and pulled them through some really tough times with Gabe. The Hope Express is their way of giving back.
How Hope Express Was Created
Hank and Connie Angus attended their first THON in February 2006. A few weeks before, Hank told Connie he was going to run to THON. He had just started training for a marathon and had found that all of the running was really helping to get his mind off of everything that was going on with his son Gabe, and his battle with leukemia. Of course, there was no way Connie was going to let Hank run to THON so he did not.
After THON 2006, the Anguses were sitting in their car ready to head home and both turned to each other and said “we need to get that run together”. They were so impressed and overwhelmed by their first THON experience that they wanted to contribute.
At first, they talked about making this a torch run from the Hershey Medical Center to THON that would resemble the Olympic Torch run. The torch would be lit on the 7th floor by one of the kids and proceed to THON from there. Once at THON, they hoped to transfer the flame to a torch, symbolizing the start of THON. So they began working that angle until they were told how heavy the torches were. That became a deterrent, considering who might be carrying the torch along the way. The Anguses were determined. They still wanted the run, but needed a purpose. Since the intent of the run has always been a symbolic way of tying the families and activities at the Medical Center to THON, they started to think about how they could get the families involved. There are many families who will not be able to attend THON because their children are too sick to leave the hospital. They thought this run would be a great way for those families to express their regards to the kids at THON by sending a note or a letter. And so the THON Express was born, based on the Pony Express that ran tirelessly from point A to point B just to deliver a message, so will the Express runners carry those messages from the kids in Hershey to the dancers in State College!
Gabe Angus and THON Express
This is the story of Gabe Angus and his family, the people behind The Hope Express. I hope you find it as inspirational as we do.
All too often in our day to day lives we like to think of ourselves in control. We plan our every moment and convince ourselves that we are not prone to harm. This is folly of course. We all eventually succumb to some kind of mishap or misfortune. For most of us these mishaps are minor blips on the screen of life. Yet for others the misfortune is deeper. It is life changing. It runs deep, all the way to the soul of our being. Read More…
The Hope Express is a 135-mile run that was created with the intention of bridging the gap between the families on the 7th floor at the Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA and the Dancers at the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (aka THON). THON is a year round fundraising event benefiting The Four Diamonds Fund, Conquering Childhood Cancer. Over the past 34 years, the students of THON have raised more than $41 million and have helped thousands of children and families fight pediatric cancer.
The Hope Express will begin with a celebration for the families on Marathon Avenue, and will end at the Bryce Jordan Center to help kick off THON weekend.
The three Hope Express routes will be completed by three teams of 46 runners over a 24 hour period. This team will consist of THON alumni and Four Diamond families (past and present). Just as THON dancers participate in the no-sitting, no-sleeping, two day dance marathon held every February, enduring hours of fatigue, pain and delirium, the Hope Express runners will have to endure the cold, harsh, winter weather of a very cold night in February. Anyone involved in either activity understands that what they are going to endure does not compare to the harsh reality of a cancer diagnosis and its treatment. Everyone involved knows that they are playing a small albeit essential role in one of Penn State’s greatest and most unifying traditions.
And EVERYONE knows that they are doing this For the Kids, to honor them in their courageous battle against childhood cancer.