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Nick Pantalone '15 Remains a Voice Against Pediatric Cancer
03.22.12 |
THON is one of the largest student-driven philanthropic efforts in the world, and for the last two years, Lebanon Valley College freshman Nick Pantalone has been one of its many memorable ambassadors.

Despite being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that grew a multitude of tumors in his abdomen and pelvic area, Pantalone remains upbeat and willing to lend his voice to a number of events. “I’ve never had a problem with not staying upbeat because I’ve always had things to look forward to,” Pantalone said. “I don’t let this cancer change a part of me, so I continue living my life to the fullest. Whether it’s school musicals, or working at Hershey Park, or vacation, I always have things to look forward to.”

His diagnosis, like so many others, came as a shock. Pantalone was pinned against a chain-link fence by a bus in early 2010. Though he seemed unharmed, his parents had him checked out by doctors. A scan showed his tumors, and he began chemotherapy in February 2010.

Since 1973, THON’s central fundraising event has been a weekend-long dance marathon event held on the Penn State campus. The effort has extended to a year-round effort set on raising money for research and treatment of pediatric cancer. Funds raised benefit The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

It makes sense that Pantalone would volunteer his time to advocate on behalf of The Four Diamonds. The fund has paid for all treatments he has undergone in Pennsylvania. “I knew nothing about the Four Diamonds beforehand. When they said to us, ‘You’re eligible to receive benefits from the Four Diamonds Fund,’ we had no idea what that meant at the time,” Pantalone said. “In retrospect, it means so much. We haven’t seen a single bill for any of my medical treatments. I know some of the simple shots I’ve gotten to boost my immune system run $3,000 or $4,000 apiece.”

Nick and his family attended all three days of the THON weekend event this year. The 2012 event, held from Feb. 17 to 19, raised $10,686,924.83. It was the first eight-digit total since the event’s inception.

Vince Pantalone, Nick’s father and LVC football’s defensive coordinator, compared the experience of being onstage before 18,000 screaming dancers to that of a rock star. “Now we understand how people get addicted to being in front of a crowd,” Vince Pantalone said. “You can’t imagine 18,000 people in an arena. I can describe it to you, but you’ll never believe it.”

“My brother’s fiancée went to Penn State, so she’s told us about THON,” Nick said. “There’s such a huge difference between hearing about THON and actually being there.”

The elder Pantalone’s ties to LVC’s football team have helped build awareness of Nick’s condition throughout the process. “In 2010, when Nick was first diagnosed, the football team donated all their Relay for Life stuff,” he said. “They did a bench-a-thon for him and we had a golf outing for him. The College rallied around him. His high school – Cedar Cliff High School – rallied around him, too, with some musical concerts.”

The Nick Pantalone Fund was established to help cover a series of surgeries Nick underwent at the Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Any treatment administered outside of Penn State Hershey Medical Center is not covered by The Four Diamond Fund, so there was an emergent need for additional fundraising. “In total, we almost had to live in New York City for over a month,” Vince said. “The expenses of living there for a month were paid by this fund. Whatever our insurance didn’t pay, the Nick Pantalone Fund picked up.”

Since his diagnosis, Pantalone has undergone four surgeries, more than 25 rounds of chemotherapy, and two experimental studies. “My hair has changed from this, to gone, to blonde last year, and now it’s changed back to its original brown,” Nick said.

As an LVC student, Nick sings in the concert choir and was slated to play a role in the fall play until being told he had to head to New York for his surgeries. He also remains an advocate for cancer research on campus, participating in LVC’s mini-THON and the College’s Relay for Life event. For others interested in fundraising with this year’s Relay event, Nick had this to say: “There’s a difference in participating in a charity for whom you don’t know any of the recipients, as opposed to knowing someone who’s being directly affected by it. I’d say get to know the people you’re benefiting. Get to know me. It’ll take it to a more personal level.”

LVC’s 2012 Relay for Life event kicks off on March 30. Participants will have the chance to meet Nick, as he will be walking for his second straight year. “I’d like to thank the College again for all the support,” Nick said. "This year, I’m going to walk with a few of the football players.”

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