Local Children to Benefit during High School ‘Hawk Thon’

by Jonathan Weaver

In about two weeks, hundreds of students will again lock themselves in Armstrong Junior-Senior High’s gymnasium to raise money for children in need.

The upcoming ‘Hawk Thon’ student chairpersons at Armstrong Junior-Senior High anticipate nearly 250 students will participate and donate to four local children with medical needs. Chairs include: (bottom row) Vice Co-Chairs Eva Crawford and Kaylee Hough (middle) Co-Chairs Mason Flanigan and Madison Titus and (top) STUCO Vice-President Sylvia Hamilton.

Students are actively collecting donations as part of “Hawk Thon 2017” – a tie-dye dinosaur/superhero-themed night of dancing and fun.

Event Co-Chairs Mason Flanigan and Madison Titus both attended the dance-a-thon two years ago while at Kittanning Senior High. Titus participated with her fellow softball athletes in teal T-shirts.

Titus said her family and friends are graciously donating to the event.

“After doing the first two years of thon, they understand what it’s for and the cause. It’s hard to believe but more-and-more people have heard about it now since it’s been done by Kittanning so many years and Armstrong did it (last year),” Titus said. “It’s affecting so many people in our community.”

“(This year) is hitting more areas of our school district. It’s hitting close-to-home more.”

Prizes will be given to the team and the individual male and female students that raises the most money.

Event Vice Co-Chairs Eva Crawford and Kaylee Hough (who said they are trying
to raise the most money) are shadowing Flanigan and Titus to possibly chair next Spring’s event.

Hough explained that Student Council Advisors Erin Burkett and Barb Meleason asked students school-wide if they knew of children in-need.

“Students gave them names, and of those names, we came up with four and decided instead of picking one child (to help), we were just going to distribute the money evenly,” Hough said.

“It’s hard to pick just one,” Titus added. “We may not be able to help them next year because of their situation. How do you say ‘no’ to someone in need?”

The four children from the Armstrong School District selected to benefit from this year’s event include:

– Four-and-a-half month old Belle Bisping (and daughter of seventh-grade reading teacher Laura Bisping), who was born with Megacystis Microcolon Intestinal Hypoperistalis Syndrome (MMIHS) –causing her to not be able to digest food and will likely need a multi-organ transplant

– Six-year-old Lenape Elementary student Toby Collins, who has an inoperable brain tumor called a low-grade glioma deep in the center of his brain.

– Five-year-old Lenape Elementary student Layten Bowser, who was diagnosed in September with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma – a cancer of the adrenal glands commonly found in children

– and 14-year-old Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh student Noah Anthony, who was born 10 weeks premature and diagnosed with a rare seizure disorder called Infantile Spasms due to a hole in his heart that has led to three different open heart
surgeries and a rare cancer of the blood.

“When the kids we’re raising money for come in, I think it hits a lot of students harder. They get to meet them and see who they are as a person more than their diagnosis,” Titus said.

More than 30 teams attended last March, but Titus looked forward to more participation at this year’s event. Flanigan said nearly two-dozen teams of at least 10 students each are already registered.

“It’s definitely going to be different than last year because there’s definitely going to be more kids there – we have more teams (already signed up), more teams eager to participate,” Titus said. “We ended up having more teams than we did tie-dye shirts – more than we definitely expected.”

Students paid a $20 participation fee (to cover security, food and T-shirts) and are aiming to donate at least $25 each, Burkett said. She praised the work student leaders have dedicated to ‘Hawk Thon’ so far.

“We want to be able to give everything we can to the families,” Burkett said. “We are hoping we can bring in at least $1,000 for each family. It would be wonderful if we surpassed that goal, but we keep telling the kids that no matter what they raise,
these families are already appreciative of their efforts.”

Last year’s dance-a-thon raised more than $5,000 for Lenape Elementary student Sydney Brison.

Community residents can also sponsor high school students participating or purchase a T-shirt by reaching out to a student or Meleason at the high school.

The 12-hour event begins at 7PM Fri., March 24th in the school cafeterias and lasts until 7AM Sat., March 25.