Penn State’s THON inspires local man’s 1K for 10K

By on January 30, 2019

 

Penn State grad JP Welliver is an avid runner, and this year he’ll be running 1,000 miles to secure donations towards the Four Diamonds Fund.

John “JP” Welliver’s 1K for 10K campaign was inspired by Penn State’s THON, the student-run philanthropy committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer and known for its 46-hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon.

Welliver, a 2010 PSU grad, launched his 1K for 10K campaign Jan. 2. Through this year-long effort, he plans to run 1,000 miles to raise $10,000 to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund and pediatric cancer research. Proceeds from Penn State’s annual THON are also donated to the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Children’s Hospital, Hershey.

“The moment I walked into THON for the first time as a freshman, I knew that it was something that I wanted to be a part of in whatever capacity possible,” Welliver said. “THON is an experience that can’t be described — it has to be witnessed in person. It is unreal and unimaginable — the energy and impact it has on not only the people that attend, but those all around the world. During my remaining three years at University Park, I involved myself with THON in capacities that included the public relations street team, a merchandise captain, and also representing my Singing Lions show choir group as a dancer during my senior year.”

Penn State’s THON was organized by a group of students in 1973. According to the organization’s website, each year over 16,500 student volunteers participate in the event. To date it’s raised $157,000,000 and helped 4,000 families. This year’s THON weekend is Feb. 15 to 17.

“When you’re doing the 46-hour THON, there’s so much energy, you don’t get tired,” he explained. “Hearing from and seeing the kids and families who benefit from THON efforts reminds you of why you’re there. It’s uplifting and emotional.”

Welliver not only is a runner, but he may be familiar to community for other reasons. He wears many “hats,” including that of account manager at the WEBstaurantstore, Lititz; music director at St. Paul Lutheran, Penryn; and performing onstage in various EPAC (Ephrata Performing Arts Center) productions. He’s also the stage manager and musical director of EPAC’s Kids4Kids productions.

He explained that he’s attended St. Paul’s since 1995 and has been the music director there since graduating from Penn State in 2010. He’s also been involved with the youth group, and has participated in mission trips to Mexico. He also directs St. Paul’s senior choir, a group of 10 volunteers of all ages.

“One of my favorite traditions every year without fail is the Christmas Eve service. It is always something that I start to plan early (and I mean early…like prior to summer),” he said, “The hymns, candlelight, message, and music speak to me and it is always so humbling and overwhelming to see the church pews filled with people.”

He’s been performing at EPAC since his 2010 graduation from Penn State. His first show was “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”

“There is just nothing as thrilling as getting under the lights, putting on a costume and pretending to be someone else to make an audience of individuals have fun and smile,” he said.

He notes that rehearsals vary, but are usually four or five nights a week and last about four hours. He’s currently serving as vocal director of EPAC’s Kids4Kids latest production, “Mary Poppins Jr.” The curtain goes up on the production Feb. 1 and it runs through Feb. 17.

But even with his sometimes hectic schedule, he’s found ways to be part of THON since graduating.

“Ever since high school, I’ve wanted to have my schedule jam packed; it helps me manage stress,” he said. “If I hadn’t gone to Penn State and participated in THON, I’m not sure I would be so passionate about this cause. This cause (pediatric cancer) has stayed with me since graduating, so it’s important for me to be involved in some way.”

For two years (February 2015 and February 2016) he participated in The Hope Express, a relay team of runners that ran from Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to the Bryce Jordan Center on PSU’s campus during THON weekend. Each runner ran about 18 miles during the 24-hour relay.

“I had many supporters during those two years, and together we raised over $10,000 for pediatric cancer research — $5,257 in 2015 and $4,839 in 2016,” Welliver explained.

Unfortunately The Hope Express did not return in 2017.

“I learned in the summer of 2016 that it wouldn’t be returning,” he said, “I was devastated. I felt the need to do something, since the cause has always been so close to my heart.”

That something was a campaign to run 300 miles in the hope of raising $3,000 for cancer research. Welliver launched the campaign in December 2016, and after three months, he had “502 miles under my belt, and $4,223 raised for pediatric cancer awareness.”

“Well, this year I’m at it again with even more energy and drive to find a cure to this terrible disease,” he said. “Over the course of 2019, I will be working hard to raise awareness and funds to those around me while hopefully getting others to join in the fight of supporting me on my journey.”

Welliver explained that running 1,000 miles in 12 months breaks down to nearly 85 miles per month — or about 3 miles per day. Since he began the 1K for 10K campaign on Jan. 2, he’s logged nearly 60 miles, which he said puts him on track to meet the 1,000-mile goal.

An early riser, he will sometimes run at 6:30 a.m. He may also go for a run over his lunch break or log some miles on a treadmill in the evening.

“Running is a way for me to decompress as well as to be one-on-one with nature,” he said. “When I’m running, I also reflect on what I’ve been given.”

Welliver has a website, 1kfor10k.com/blog/, for the campaign as well as a GoFundMe page. He said a lot of donors donate a flat amount, while some will donate a certain amount per mile.

“One day we will be able to alleviate pediatric cancer once and for all, but until that moment,” he stressed, “we must continue working together to keep hope alive.”

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

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