A Penn State University graduating senior from Lancaster, who has both benefited from and raised money for the university's annual THON campaign, got a big surprise on NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning.
The Subway corporation donated $25,000 to Penn State's THON as a tribute to Nick Vicidomini's work with the nonprofit, which raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund that supports families of children with cancer.
Vicidomini is a 2017 graduate of Manheim Township High School and a cancer survivor. This past year, he has been on the executive board of THON, serving as dance relations captain.
On the hour of "Today" hosted by Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager, a brief history of THON was presented along with Vicidomini's story.
You can watch the interview here.
"It's been so awesome just to give back to the organization that saved my life," Vicidomini said as he was interviewed remotely for the show.
He explained that he was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma in 2006, the summer after his first grade year.
Vicidomini's parents, Dennis and Carla, were also interviewed on the show. They remembered when their son was airlifted to Penn State Health Children's Hospital in Hershey, where his cancer was diagnosed, and also recalled receiving a sense of hope after being told that their expenses not covered by insurance would be covered by the Four Diamonds Fund.
Vicidomini attended his first THON, a weekend-long dance marathon held at Penn State every February, in 2007. He told "Today" that it was the first time since his diagnosis that he had felt like he wasn't being treated like "a kid with cancer. ... I was treated like a kid."
"I made that promise to myself, I want to help people feel the way I felt this weekend," Vicidomini recalled.
THON has raised more than $180 million since its inception in 1973. It raised more than $10.6 million earlier this year via a virtual event.
"It was honestly full circle," Vicidomini told Kotb. "Growing up, being part of THON as a family ... being benefited by this organization has been truly amazing. Once I got to Penn State ... I wanted to join this organization and try and give back as much as I could."
He paid tribute to the "selfless and dedicated individuals" he's worked with on THON.
Hager and Kotb connected Vicidomini virtually with his family — including brother Tyler — and Four Diamonds families, staff and health-care workers who have been impacted by THON fundraising.
Then, the "Today" hosts surprised him with the $25,000 Subway donation.
"That's so awesome," Vicidomini said behind a wide smile.
The Four Diamonds Fund's origin story has a Lancaster County connection.
It's named for an allegorical story about a knight, which was written in 1972 by Chris Millard, a student at Elizabethtown Middle School. When Chris died of cancer, his parents, Charles and Irma Millard, submitted the story to those creating the new fund to support families of kids with cancer.