Timothy Hartung made a choice to help others, like himself, who were battling cancer. That choice blessed more lives than he had ever imagined. Before being diagnosed with leukemia Timothy Hartung was a quiet, shy student involved in track and cross country but not very socially oriented. Today, Tim is very focused on reaching out to others and making a difference through his own efforts. He has a deep desire to bless others whose trials seem greater than his own and to pay forward the help and support that has been given to him throughout his journey with cancer and treatments for his leukemia. Not only has his choice blessed those he intended to bless but he has also touched the lives of countless others including students, faculty and staff at his high school.
Tim grew up in a very positive, supportive family. As he began treatments for his leukemia his family continued to encourage him to remain positive and together they reached out to others who were receiving treatments. Tim was able to receive outpatient treatment and became keenly aware there were others who were suffering so much more than he was. He asked himself, “Why was I more blessed than them?” He visited with other patients in the hospital and, with his family, made cards to encourage and lift those less fortunate than himself. One of the patients he developed a friendship with was also his age but was not able to receive outpatient treatments. Tim’s new friend had been in the hospital for quite awhile and had been running a fever for a long time. Tim and his sister made a picture for their friend with an image of him beating up a thermometer to cheer him up as well as help him visualize healing and progress. These experiences inspired in Tim an aspiration to be of help to others.
Tim was introduced to the Four Diamonds Fund when he first received treatments; he decided he wanted to do something to support this fund. His first thought was to do a fund raising 5K run as his senior project but in talking with Linda Barry at Four Diamonds she suggested he look into doing a mini-THON. This appeared to be a daunting task but one that would eventually bring much growth to himself personally as well as the entire student-body at Governor Mifflin High School. Tim got suggestions and ideas from others who had been affiliated with mini-THONs but the actual organizing and logistics of Governor Mifflin’s mini-THON were up to Tim to work out.
Tim approached Mr. Sengia, the principal at Governor Mifflin, with his idea and was referred to Mrs. Nancy Brady who works with the SGA (Student Government Association). Mrs. Brady felt it was providential when Tim presented his idea to her because the charitable cause chosen that year by the Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils (PASC) was the Four Diamond’s Fund with the goal to increase the number of mini-THONs being held in the state of PA. Mrs. Brady sits on the state board for PASC and was delighted to have a way to assist with that goal.
That first mini-THON was a great success and both Tim and Mrs. Brady expressed their feelings that the success could be attributed to the student body at Governor Mifflin. Each student who participated did so on their own time and initiative. The students are required to have at least $50.00 in sponsors to participate and they really went the second mile in getting supporters and making the event a hit. View slide show of student support here.
This year’s mini-THON is well on its way to meeting their goal of raising $30,000.00. The different classes are having a competition selling colored diamonds which are then placed on the walls of the cafeteria; the walls are quickly being covered. Even the teachers have joined in the competition with friendly rivalry between some of them. There is a faculty and staff fund raiser dinner being held tonight (Mar 5, 2010).
The Governor Mifflin mini-THON has created a true sense of community and has been one of the strongest bonding experiences the school has had. It has promoted a spirit of giving, helping the students to look outside of themselves through reaching out to others, not just in this event but in all aspects of their lives and community.
Mrs. Brady feels this event has helped to continue the efforts being made in the middle school to focus the students on helping in their local community as well as in the world. Each quarter the middle school students dedicate one day in which they are active in some form of public service. The middle school has been able to pull in motivational speakers who have, themselves, been involved in self-initiated projects to help others. These speakers encourage and increase student awareness of ways they can personally contribute. The students are then encouraged to not just start a project but to follow through and pass that stewardship on to others. Mini-THON has been a great segue for the middle school students moving into high school to continue to feel the joy that comes through serving others.
Tim hopes to inspire others in Berks County to begin the same tradition in their high schools. For help in setting up a mini-THON in your school contact Mrs. Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim has faced adversity that may have discouraged or left someone else bitter but he has used his trial as a springboard for even greater personal growth. Mrs. Brady said she has observed that Tim’s active involvement in the experience with mini-THON has provided leadership opportunities and development of interpersonal skills he would not have learned in a formal classroom. She listed some of Tim’s qualities that have served him well through this experience as:
He is a very good person at his core
His goodness to others and his genuineness have made him a natural leader whom others look up to.
She mentioned that he has come a long way from the shy student who first approached her about doing a mini-THON.
Tim continues to run cross country and participate in track. He feels the experience of having leukemia has helped him to be stronger both mentally and physically. Tim’s cancer is in remission but he has retained the lessons learned through his ordeal. He feels he is better able to face the physical pain of running, put it to the back of his mind and keep going. The Governor Mifflin cross country team was a close group, as many cross country teams are. Tim feels, however, that going through this experience together brought even more unity and bonding between his team members.
Tim assured me he has students in place to continue the mini-THON after he graduates this year. His goals for the future include going on to college, possibly Penn State, and either participating in THON or setting up a similar program if he goes to a college that doesn’t already have something established. He said he plans to become involved in student government at his college of choice if that is what it takes to begin a program patterned after Penn State’s THON. Tim plans to stay actively involved in public service in the future.
Special thanks for participation in this interview to:
Student Government Association Advisor
Governor Mifflin High School
Director of Public Information
Governor Mifflin School District