When Kaitlyn Eason
decided West Virginia University was the school for her, she may not have known coming in as a freshman that she would want to have an impact on her fellow student-athletes and those within the Morgantown community. Now a junior on WVU’s rowing team, Eason encourages and leads those around her to make a difference in the community.
Her inspiration to get people involved in paying it forward comes from her younger sister, Kailey. Next month, on March 14, Kailey would have been turning 20 years old.
“Kailey had a brain tumor and passed away when she was 23 months old. If she were here today then she would be turning 20 and I’m 21, so we’re all really close in age,” Eason explains. “There are five of us kids in the family, and we’re all about two years apart.”
A native of Dauphin, Pa., Eason was brought up around the activities at Penn State University, with one in particular that hit home—it was the Penn State Dance Marathon—also known as THON. THON partners with Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Medical Center to assist families who are fighting against pediatric cancer. The campus comes together with fundraising efforts for a 46-hour dance marathon each year with students and spectators adding up to tens of thousands.
“My family was one that was helped by staying at the Ronald McDonald House and as a Four Diamonds Fund family. We were helped out with our medical bills from my little sister, who ended up passing away from the cancer. Every year we went back and kind of stayed in touch with people we met and the doctors and nurses,” says Eason.
This year, Eason met with student-athletes who are a part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) to urge everyone to get involved in the WVU Dance Marathon, which is similar to PSU’s THON and is taking place on WVU’s campus in Stansbury Hall, on Saturday, Feb. 22.
“I got really involved with the WVU Dance Marathon when I came to school here my freshman year. My mom worked for a foundation for kids with cancer and it just kind of became embedded in our family,” Eason continues. “The rowing team became more involved since it’s the team I’m on, and my brother, Kyle, was a wrestler here so some wrestlers got involved, but also volleyball and tennis are involved, and we’re working on getting representation from every sport.”
The event is a Children’s Miracle Network event, with proceeds raised donated to the WVU Children’s Hospital at Ruby Memorial Hospital. The students who participate are the dancers, while those who donate are called Spirit Dancers.
“I am trying to expand WVU Dance Marathon to how I know of Penn State’s. They raise a couple million dollars toward Four Diamonds Fund,” Eason explained. “We’re fairly small, but I just want our athletes involved to help this grow. There’s so much we can do—we have a huge university. Student-athletes already help out at the hospital and volunteer, so why not get involved?”
This year’s goal for the WVU Dance Marathon is $50,000. Last year, the organization raised $34,000 for the children’s hospital.
“We’re having a meet-in-greet with an autograph session, and we’ll be taking pictures with patients from the WVU Children’s Hospital starting at 4 p.m., on Saturday. Then we’ll also do some dancing,” Eason says with a smile.