Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Hurt That Onward State Caused Four Diamonds Families

To preface the emails and open letter to Onward State's Managing Editor, Kevin Horne, I would like to first explain how this came to be. Onward State, Penn State's independently operated blog, re-posted an article this week entitled "100 Reasons Why We Dance" which was originally published in 2012. The article has many very inspiring notes and is a big hit among the THON community.

At the end of the article, a number of children's names are listed as reasons why we dance. These children are cancer survivors, have lost their battles with cancer or are currently in treatment for cancer.
While yes, of course we THON For the Kids - it was brought to my attention by a number of Four Diamonds parents that hundreds of children were left out of this list. We do not THON just for these children, we THON for all of the Four Diamonds children and their families.

I reached out to Onward State, encouraging them to use the sentiment, 'Four Diamonds families' rather than naming handfuls of children - in an effort to include everyone and not leave any child behind. Below is my disappointing conversation with Kevin Horne, who is certainly not For the Kids. 

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My email to Onward State's Managing Editor, Kevin Horne and the Onward State staff


Kevin and the Onward State staff, 

I would like to draw to your attention the article that Onward State posted to highlight 100 Days until THON 2014. Mr. Horne, I am writing to you on behalf of the hundreds of Four Diamonds families who have been treated at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital over the last 41 years and who have been supported by the valiant efforts of the Penn State students and THON volunteers. 


I know both sides of this story. In 2010, I lost my younger brother, Jed, after an eight-year battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. My family has been involved with the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon since 2003 when THON was still in Rec Hall and I was still in elementary school. I went on to graduate from Penn State this year after dancing in both THON 2010 and THON 2011 and serving as a Public Relations Captain and a Family Relations Captain. I am both a Four Diamonds family and a passionate THON volunteer – but this isn’t about me.

The article you re-posted on Onward State November 13, 2013 was incredibly offensive and hurtful to so many Four Diamonds families and this needs to be brought to your attention and the attention of your staff. While I know the initial intent of the article was to be motivational and inspiring – it is thoughtless.

Approximately 100 new families receive support from the Four Diamonds Fund each year. THON paired with The Four Diamonds Fund in 1977 and your article only mentions the names of 88 children. Where are the names of the other 3,500 or more children? What about recognizing the sacrifices, pain, loss, victories, successes and special moments of all of those families?

My own brother’s name is mentioned in this article, and it is so wonderful to see his name and know that he is being remembered. But as a Family Relations Captain, I worked with over 40 families who had lost their children – only a handful of their names are on this list.

Please take a moment and try to consider what it is like for these parents who don’t have their child here with them anymore. A terrible disease has taken their baby and they wake up each day just to be reminded that their child died. Then consider that their child’s name is overlooked and that their family is forgotten.

You cannot comprehend that pain and you caused it for so many families.

There are hundreds of healthy and thriving Four Diamonds children who were also not mentioned in this article. What about them?

To the parents whose children were mentioned, 
I love each and every one of you. We are a family.


Onward State, you owe and apology to the families whom you overlooked. I urge you to use, ‘Four Diamonds families’ when referring to the community that we are all a part of in any future publications.  

Remember, we THON For the Kids – no matter what.

Respectfully, 
Savannah Smith 

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Kevin Horne's personal response


Hi Savannah,
Thank you very much for the message. Your commitment to the fight against pediatric cancer is inspiring. I cannot begin to imagine the pain you have gone through, but hearing about the positive efforts of you and countless other students, alumni, and members of the Four Diamonds Foundation will never cease to impress.


However, after reading this email multiple times, I had to check to make sure it wasn't someone playing a prank on me.  Believe me when I say that it was not our intention to offend any of the Four Diamonds families.  The "100 Reasons Why We Dance" post is one of my favorite posts we've ever written -- one of our most read and shared THON posts of all-time, in fact -- and has been ubiquitously shared in the THON community with an overwhelmingly positive response.


To call an article written by fellow THON supports and so clearly meant to put THON in a positive light "incredibly offensive, "hurtful," and "thoughtless" is -- if I'm being honest -- an absolute joke.
To be clear, the list of names we used came directly from the THON website (this link). The first sentence clearly states that the post was republished exactly as it appeared last year. If you're implying that we can't mention one THON child without mentioning all 3,500 of them -- well -- that is completely insane, and not something that any news website could undertake. The THON website only lists the names of 93 kids and 13 families. Do you know why? Because it would be IMPOSSIBLE to list and profile every single child.


How do you think THON families must feel when they scroll through the official THON website and see that their child was overlooked? Much worse than on a student blog, I'm sure. If you're going to send us an email with such a hateful and condescending tone for being non-inclusive, I'll expect that you send the same sort of email to this year's THON Executive Committee.


Of course, that's not taking anything away from any THON family or child that wasn't listed. I think I can speak for everyone on my staff -- and indeed, everyone at Penn State -- when I say that we all have such admiration, respect, and empathy for everything families impacted by cancer must go through. It is through the hard work of everyone involved in THON that one day, no family will need to endure such senseless pain.


But to say my organization must apologize for publishing an article that was so clearly favorable of THON and all its participants is patently absurd. Please feel free to contact me again if you have legitimate criticism to share, and thank you for reading.
Kevin Horne


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An open letter to Kevin Horne and Onward State


Kevin, 

Perhaps you misunderstood me. I work in communications for one of the most highly respected childhood cancer organizations in the world - trust me, I understand that naming thousands of children in an article is nearly impossible. However, if you refer to the last paragraph of my letter, I offered a simple solution that would both provide simplicity to your writers and editors as well as ensure that no families feel left out. 

Secondly, the organization is the Four Diamonds Fund (not the Four Diamonds Foundation).

While this inspirational and very sweet article is undoubtedly popular and well loved within the THON community that does not discount its ability to offend and hurt some families. Please know that there are mothers who were so hurt by the exclusion of their children that they were brought to tears. It does not matter if this article was re-posted from last year - it is your responsibility as an editor to make sure that all information is accurate and fair. 

The information on THON.org is given to The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon by the Four Diamonds families who wish to be featured in the family webpages program run by the Family Relations Captain Committee. These families give permission and fill out forms to be featured on the website. This does not mean that Family Relations or THON "forgot" the other families. 

I am not and never was asking you to name all of the Four Diamonds children and their families. I was simply asking you to consider the hurtful impact that your blog had on many families. I see now that it does not matter to you - and neither does good investigative journalism. 

Again, Four Diamonds families are a community. We may be many individual families but true to the word - we are one big family. Consider the wide-spread impact of your organization's words more carefully next time. Childhood cancer is not a matter to take lightly. 

Thank you, 
Savannah


Savannah-9472

Update: Kevin's response


Savannah,


I would have been happy to continue this conversation with you but since you already made our exchange public, I don't think there is much of a point. Your true intentions are now clear -- this crusade was not only about being for the kids, but about puffing your chest out to "show off" your exchange with me for personal recognition, a trend that is unfortunately ever-so-prevalent in THON these days.

This was never about you, Savannah, and frankly, you are the exact type of person that gives THON a bad name. Onward State will continue to cover THON in the most positive way possible, and part of that includes using the names of families.

Onward,
Kevin Horne

-- 


I would like to just remind any one reading this who doesn't know that I have been dedicated to THON's fight for over twelve years. I have shared my personal story at more THON events that I can count, including THON weekend in the hopes that I can inspire a new generation of volunteers. I now run an organization that donates thousands of dollars to THON's fight and supports the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. Today, we are donating an iPad to a little boy who not only has cancer but also has autism and difficulty communicating. None of this was about "puffing out my chest" - it was about standing up for hurting families when the can't stand up for themselves. I've been doing it all of my life. Onward State's negativity and poor leadership will not stop these families from feeling the love and support from thousands of students and alumni. 

66 comments:

  1. "Secondly, the organization is the Four Diamonds Fund (not the Four Diamonds Foundation)."

    OH SNAP YOU REALLY GOT HIM GOOD SAVANNAH

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  2. "Please know that there are mothers who were so hurt by the exclusion of their children that they were brought to tears."

    "These families give permission and fill out forms to be featured on the website."

    maybe if they didn't want to cry they could've filled out the forms you know just thinking out loud here

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    1. Maybe you shouldn't think out loud.... or laugh out loud for that matter... you find a child who died of cancer funny??????? Maybe some days we don't have the strength to fill out forms to be featured on a website and I'm surely not saying that one child is more important than another. We are all ONE family and it should have been portrayed like that.

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  3. "Onward State, you owe and apology"

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  4. Wow... this gives a whole new meaning to 'bitching just to bitch'. Way to turn a wonderful well intentioned post into something else. I feel very sorry for you that you harbor such a cynical and negative attitude towards well intentioned things and then feel proud of yourself for "standing up for others,"

    I will be sure to say a prayer for you that maybe one day you will be able to see the positive in things rather than only the negative.

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    1. If you had taken a second to research Savannah and to see the amazing work she does for families affected by childhood cancer, you could have avoided making yourself sound like a HUGE idiot. Next time, think before you put such an immature and unprofessional reaction into writing. Instead of posting "anonymous" passive-aggressive comments on a blog, be direct and RESPECTFUL with communicating your opinions like Savannah tried to do from the beginning, and like any self-respecting person in the media world would. Remember that if you are too embarrassed to attach your name to something, you are better off not sharing it. Your lack of sensitivity and thoughtlessness is an embarrassment to your organization.

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  5. Anonymous huh? Tough guy...

    The appropriate response was to apologize that it hurt anyone, identify where you got the names from, and say that you will add a disclaimer that says where you got the names and that you regret not having the space to list all families.

    Learn to handle criticism, you're in the media.

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  6. Can we see some evidence of the families being hurt?

    How can we "comprehend that pain and you caused it for so many families" if there's no proof of it?

    This open letter is a joke.

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    1. You can check out the comments on Savannah's Facebook post! There's very clear proof of hurt.

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    2. "No words can express the pain I had on Wednesday when his name was missing. I cried , like I lost him all over again. I was hurt so bad.
      I THANK YOU so much for writing this. Thank you for standing for us again. Thank you for supporting all the families who were left out." - Sheryl Holland, mother of Conner Holland (deceased)

      "When I scrolled thru the list and didn't see Charlie's name, I was disappointed." - Anne Beecher, mother of Charlie Beecher (survivor)

      "No it may not be a "big" deal to most but it sure was to us." - Tammy Cope, mother of Jazmine Cope (deceased)

      These are all sentiments shared publicly on Facebook. If you would like screenshots or the links, I have them.

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    3. This is my FULL response to the article: I can see both sides of this (yours more than his). I figured they simply took the names from the website, but I'll admit...when I scrolled thru the list and didn't see Charlie's name, I was disappointed. After battling childhood cancer, one feels a sense of "hell yeah!" when they see their child's name on a list like this. I agree, if there is no reasonable way to list ALL the names, they probably shouldn't have listed any. I just think it's one of those things that some people, particularly those who haven't fought the battle first-hand, just don't "get" and we can't possibly explain it. His response, however, was unprofessional and offensive and now I am more pissed than I was by the list itself! Thanks for speaking up for the families who were brought to tears. You're making Jed proud.

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  7. So not naming every THON kid is incredibly offensive? The article she is referring to is EXTREMELY pro THON. She's just looking for a reason to complain. What a nut. Can't believe how successful THON is in spite of maniacs like her.

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    1. The families who contacted Savannah were incredibly hurt. She didn't ask for a change in the positivity of the rest of the article, just a simple change of words. She was speaking for many families who reached out to her from a place of hurt because their child wasn't mentioned.

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    2. Why did families contact Savannah? What is she to them?

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    3. Oh my goodness. I haven't been annoyed up until this point. Why did the families contact me? They don't need to "contact" me, it's not like they sent an impersonal email. I am one of them!

      If you are going to comment then at least read the entire post.

      I am a Four Diamonds sibling since 2002. I have grown up with these families. We have all been through hell and back together. You cannot even begin to comprehend the community that we are. From 2011 - 2012 I also served as a Family Relations Bereaved Families Contact where I served the needs of over 40 families who had lost their children (and the over 300 families registered for THON that year). Changing the post doesn't just affect them, it affects me!

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    4. Please see the post below from Class of 2014 student who explains her involvement with these families and why they may have contacted her!

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  8. You go girl! So true and so well written--thank you for posting this!!

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  9. I am one of those hurt mothers who cried because her child's name was not listed. My husband also re-read the blog post 5 times to make sure her name wasn't read over. How dare you say that Savannah is making it up. It was an uplifting post until I got to the end. When I saw Jazmine's name wasn't listed I felt like yet again our DEAD daughter was "forgotten" about. Especially since she will be gone three years on November 26th. You obviously have not spoken to a family of a dead child and found out what WE deal with on a daily basis. The constant reminders of how they aren't here, the pain of walking by an empty bedroom, the angst on her other siblings faces when someone mentions her name. Sounds to me like YOU should do YOUR research. Who is being selfish here... who isn't seeing the bigger picture. I posted on Facebook after reading the blog that the knife was stuck in and twisted yet again. I then had to reclarify EXACTLY who and what I was talking about and at that point received 8 messages from parents whose children were missed. So I am pretty sure this isn't about Savannnah. Its about the every day struggles that families of dead children deal with but obviously you don't want to take the time to realize that.

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  10. Ryan Kristobak (@RyanKristobak) here, former THON Editor for Onward State, and one of the people behind this article.

    Kevin is right in saying that it was in no way our intention to hurt any family when posting this article. As he said, we (I) went to the Family pages on the THON website and listed what was available to me. While I would love to have included every child's name, I was only subject to a limited amount of information. I believe this is a case where intention must prevail. While only a portion of the children that have given me, and so, so many others inspiration through their courageous battles are listed, they stand for every single child within the Four Diamonds Fund.

    I don't think there was any reason to post these emails. It accomplishes nothing, and only causes animosity between members of the Penn State family. I don't think the children would want to such hateful exchanges. And I'm sure they also do not want to look at the post and see their name missing. However, to Tammy and the other families upset by the post, I simply ask that you understand that our intentions were not malicious, and that if you would like a name to be included, all you need to do is send an email to the editors at Onward State, and I'm sure they will be more than glad to edit the post!

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    1. Ryan,

      I doubt these exchanges would have been posted had your sentence I quote below been the response from Onward.

      "However, to Tammy and the other families upset by the post, I simply ask that you understand that our intentions were not malicious, and that if you would like a name to be included, all you need to do is send an email to the editors at Onward State, and I'm sure they will be more than glad to edit the post!"

      How about in addition you just add something in the 100 days to THON post that recognizes all families without them having to email the editors asking for recognition.

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    2. Ryan~ thank you and trust me... I didn't feel the article was malicious or meant to hurt any families but it did. Actually I don't care that many children's names were posted as they are all apart of our FAMILY. However, just to add after those names and acknowledge in a general sense the others would have been nice. An email was sent to the editor and HIS response sparked all this. Savannah did not have a hidden agenda.. she was just pointing out that some were hurt... he then turned it into something else and said it would be absolutely absurd for him to apologize.. even though at this point I don't need an apology from anyone.. especially him.

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    3. Ryan,

      There was ABSOLUTELY ZERO INTENT to post these emails - until I received Kevin's unprofessional and disgusting response and mulled it over for a little while. I felt that this is something that the Four Diamonds families needed to see.

      I did acknowledge that the post has many inspiring notes and it is a favorite throughout the THON community. I did not and never will dispute that.

      I completely understand that this article was not meant to be malicious and yes, maybe using "offensive" was not appropriate but knowing the members of the staff and also the current and past THON content being posted by Onward State, this touched a nerve for many families - even my own. Can I just repeat... I am a Four Diamonds family.

      There was absolutely no offer to edit the post and there still is no offer. In fact, there is the opposite.

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    4. Hello Savannah, my name is Caitlin Simpson, another writer for Onward State (apologies, as I'm sure you're getting tired of hearing from us). However, I am perplexed by this comment and would like to know specifically which parts of Kevin's email you believe to be "unprofessional" and "disgusting" as after reading it I was quite proud to be represented in such a diplomatic response.

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    5. Brent, thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it. Since I have graduated and now work for a different news org, I have no editorial control anymore haha, but I will be glad to pass on the sentiment.

      Tammy, I apologize that such a statement was not written out in the post. While I can't remember my exact mindset while writing the post, I'm sure I just didn't even think of writing "and all the other children," so easy to overlook those things when writing a post of that size!

      Savannah, I do not think that you were hoping for this end so that you could make an OS blast post. I think the real issue here is an accidental poor selection of words (and the lack of tone present in nonverbal communication). In your original email, you wrote statements like "it is thoughtless," "incredibly offensive and hurtful," and "You cannot comprehend that pain and you caused it for so many families."

      It is really easy to get caught up when writing about an emotional subject (I have done it many times) and we lose track of our words and the implications they can draw in the mind of another. It is in these situations that the ego is bruised and automatically falls into defense, and then the result is an exchange as above (i acknowledge that Kevin could have phrased things better as well).

      Onward State, THON, and all things have their moments where criticism is warranted, and it is because of the people involved (we all screw up and snappy sometimes haha). I like to think that during the time I was with OS, we provided content that balanced any negative comments with positive comments coming from a different perspective.

      Honestly, all I want is for this growing animosity between Onward State and THON to end. We both have separate jobs, but there is no reason why it can't be amicable. Both sides need to look past previous altercations and move forward towards a relationship of mutual respect. The members of THON work hard day in and day out, and so do the members of Onward State. As someone who has been a part of both, I know this to be true, and I have heard arguments from both sides, and it so often ends up being simple misunderstandings drawn out way too far.

      We are all members of the Penn State family, and if we hold on to these grudges, it will certainly affect (if even in the smallest way) the experience we can provide for the kids during THON weekend, and beyond. And no one wants that.

      I would be glad to continue this conversation with you and any other member of THON, and the members of OS, any time!

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  11. As a THON supporter, I feel like this situation could have been handled with so much more tact on both sides. Savannah, I understand your heart is in the right place, and you were seeking justice for the families that have been hurt by the lack of mention in the Onward State article, but I feel you went about it in the wrong way. I reread your initial email to Kevin, just to make sure my feelings were justified. In my opinion, your first email was very aggressive. You made the decision to go on the offensive, without testing the waters, which is a big no-no in professional communication. I think that this hostile exchange between both parties could have avoided had you approached the situation with a little more humility and grace.

    That being said, Kevin, if you're reading this, you also had faults. As the editor-in-chief of a major news outlet (albeit student), you have the responsibility to maintaining a professional decorum, language, and attitude with your readers and responders. Above, I did recognize that Savannah's initial communication was aggressive. However, as a student leader and prominent figure, it is your responsibility to understand her position and try to coax a reasonable and levelheaded reply from her. Your responses were immature at best and used hostile defensiveness to combat aggressiveness, perpetuating a dangerous cycle.

    I am an avid supporter of both parties involved. THON is a phenomenal organization, and Savannah, you are a inspiring part of that, as are all of the families. Onward State is a creative and information outlet run by a competent staff and enjoyed by many. It my sincere hope, Savannah, that both you and Kevin can continue to communicate civilly and peacefully so that both may reach an understanding.

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    1. I completely respect your opinion that the initial email was aggressive. However, there are seasoned THON Captains (not to mention former a Family Relations Captain) on the current Onward State staff. My experience has taught me that what was done, was a big no-no, bigger than the aggressiveness of my email, and they should know it too. Being a THON supporter and being a THON Captain are two entirely different things – you learn, grow and know how to take care of the needs of these families and children.

      I'm not a THON Captain anymore but I am a childhood cancer sibling and daughter, friend and advocate. That never changes.

      There was never an initial intent to post this publicly, it was only after Mr. Horne's unprofessional and insincere response came as quite a shock that I felt that it needed to be shared.

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    2. I completely agree that Kevin's response was completely unwarranted and unprofessional. Although I am a former Captain and still close to several families, I cannot begin to fathom the shock and disappointment that many of the families felt upon learning of the exclusion of their child. Whether the oversights were intentional or not is not the issue since Kevin addressed the original author's reasons in the first response. Kevin's replies would have been much more palatable had he included any sort of empathy in his email, instead of the sarcastic contempt that is posted above. Unprofessional, uncalled for, and disappointing.

      I hope you're not seeing my comment as a slight against your purpose behind these exchanges in anyway. I just wanted to point out where things could have gone smoother, although you are probably acutely aware of that. I commend you for believing in a cause and serving as an powerfully voiced advocate for many of the families. Your drive to make a difference in this world is what keeps causes alive and motivates change.

      FTK! =)

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    3. Well I suppose that I have just been brought into this argument. My name is Mara Kern and I am currently the THON editor for Onward State. Having served as a THON Chair as well as a Family Relations Captain, I hope that people are able to see that in no way, shape, or form was this post meant to ostracize or alienate any family. I believe that our intention when writing this post was to provide a list of positive things that inspire the THON community to fight so hard against pediatric cancer, something I feel that we did well considering this is one of our most shared THON articles ever.

      If you take a look at the "offensive" post, you can see that the first two reasons are "For the kids who are fighting the battle..." followed with reason #2- "and those who have passed away". I believe that this would encompass all Four Diamonds families, therefore not leaving anyone out. To use the word offensive was honestly hurtful to me, especially when I think this post is beautiful.

      We continued on in the post to list some families that were found on THON's public page to provide some tangible examples of the hundreds of families helped by THON and the Four Diamonds Fund. At no point in my mind did it even occur to me that this would cause pain and anguish in anyones life, as Ryan said we were just working with information that we had available. For any hurt that has been caused, I am sorry and I do hope you can see it was not intentional. As someone who has a close family member battling cancer, I understand that unique things can trigger emotions, but you also must realize that it is impossible to please everyone, and I never once would have thought an article containing 100 reasons why THON is great would cause such anguish.

      Please also understand that there really is no actual solution given here. If I am understanding correctly, Savannah, you are suggesting that rather than ever using any specific family names, we should always use "Four Diamonds Families" so that no one feels left out? I think that limiting us to saying something like that would take away the impact that seeing an actual name of a family battling cancer can have.

      Onward State prides itself on being made up of a unique staff that represents many facets of the Penn State community, which includes THON Captains, former dancers, THON Chairs, committee members and members of fundraising organizations. Clearly this is a situation that has gotten a bit out of hand, and to lump Onward State as a whole together and suggest that we do not care about THON or families battling cancer is hurtful to me. I agree that your initial e-mail was aggressive, as well as much of your follow-up. As mentioned by one family on your Facebook post- they feel left out when people say "for the J's"- and you admitted that this had never occurred to you that families would feel left out. I believe we have now found ourselves in the same boat.

      Once again, I personally apologize to any families that were offended by this post, and I encourage you to reach out to me at mara@onwardstate.com if you would like to discuss your concerns at any point in time. I look forward to continuing our THON coverage this year and would love to hear suggestions as to how we can improve. Thank you!

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    4. Mara, you know better. Sarah taught you better and you know better.

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    5. I am honestly confused as to what I should "know better" about. If you would like to start a constructive conversation about what Onward State can do better in regards to our THON content, I would be more than happy to discuss that with you in a civil manner over e-mail or the phone!

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    6. I posted this below but figured it was more appropriate in this thread where you say that these were never meant to be public:

      Savannah,
      I just want to call shenanigans on your claim that you never intended these emails to be made public. Why, in the first letter to Kevin, would you say:

      To the parents whose children were mentioned,
      I love each and every one of you. We are a family.

      Did you think that THON families would be reading it over his shoulder? It seems pretty clear to me that the first email was written intentionally as an open letter. The whole thing seems like a plea for attention.. Congratulations, I guess. You got it.

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  12. I think that the Onward State's Managing Editor may need some sensitivity training if he is going to publish articles that involve families who are experiencing a horrible tragedy. Unless one has lost a child, they absolutely can not begin to imagine the pain and grief that these families will endure every minute for their rest of their lives. To sweep it under the rug and shrug with an "oh well" attitude just shows that the intended sensitivity and purpose of the article just wasn't there. A simple "we would love to include every child's name, and we certainly include them in our thoughts and prayers" could have gone a long way and would also have included the children of the families who didn't have the strength to fill out a form. The editor's rebuttal could have been so simply handled with delicacy and grace, but instead tainted an otherwise powerful and influential article.

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  13. He also publicly shames family members of Sandusky victims via Twitter and Facebook. He's disgusting.

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  14. I have to politely disagree, Kelly. I don't think that Kevin Horne meant that at all, and in no way has he ever said "oh well" or acted in that way towards childhood cancer.

    Savannah, I don't see how this is in any way Onward State's fault as there is no way that they were going to email everyone in the world asking if they were a Four Diamonds family as to include them in the article simply just to name all of the families. There are families who do not participate in THON at all, but they are absolutely still in love with THON and what it does. There are families who come to THON every year and do as much as they can to help. There are so many different types of families who benefit from the Four Diamonds Fund and they are so appreciative. If having their name published in an article is that important to them, then that should be taken up with THON as their name was not included on the THON Family page on THON.org, not Onward State. The power of one student organization is only so limited. You have to remember...they are students. They make mistakes, even if this "mistake" wasn't really one. To lambast someone and an organization who has liveblogged, photographed, written countless (very positive) articles, you are damaging the credibility of that organization. OS has supported THON and, admittedly, has had its own constructive criticism. If you and the rest of the families took such incredible offense to the article in question, ask a simple question before aggressively attacking a student and an organization who loves THON. A simple "where did the names come from? how were the names chosen?" would have been better than assuming OS just didn't care about the rest of the families.

    FTK always.

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  15. I don't think Onward State "just didn't care about the rest of the families". However, I think the purpose of Savannah sending the email in the first place was to bring to light the fact that mothers of children who are no longer with us were hurting from this article. Yes there were many great points in this THON article, and I did love it, but I think it also needs to take into consideration how a parent, child, sibling, etc. would feel about not seeing their child/friend/sibling/etc. listed.

    I'm not discrediting anyone's work or saying that anyone was in the wrong here. We're all entitled to our own opinions (that's why they're an opinion). I'm simply saying that I believe the main point was that some families were hurt.

    Otherwise, the beginning does state for ALL kids, and for ALL angels. (not a direct quote, but it's the general idea). That's what THON is, and I think the article embodied this fact. I see both sides of this encounter.

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  16. Savannah, I see little point in posting these exchanges. I understand the hurt and pain caused to several families, but more and more it seems that you use anything you can to put yourself on a pedestal. Your email could have easily been concise, polite, and professional, but was instead excessively verbose, repetitive, and crusading. The majority of the comments on this blog post have not been in support of you. I feel for your loss, as I have lost someone to childhood leukemia, but I am not offended he was not mentioned on the list. You allowed this situation to snowball by attacking the editor and posting the exchange publicly. The only person who looks bad in this scenario is you. I read each response very carefully, as well as your exchanges with Kevin, and just hope for your sake you pause and "mull" longer than you must have on this situation.

    On top of all of this, I was disgusted reading this line from you:


    "To the parents whose children were mentioned,
    I love each and every one of you. We are a family."

    You are not the only THON supporter, not the only sister to have lost a sibling, not the only student whose future career has been shaped by their time with THON. I am sure hundreds of Four Diamond Families have never even heard of you. I think you allowed Kevin to say "This was never about you Savannah" by assuming your poster child status.

    Very disappointed in you Savannah. YOU know better, and if you don't, you should.

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    1. I don't even understand this insane, mean comment. People who work hard and dedicate their lives to a great cause are obviously allowed to talk about it and defend it. There is no need to belittle someone by calling them a "poster child."

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    2. Miss Walsh, there is a difference between talking and defending, and the purpose of Savannah's blog post. I care as much about THON as the next dedicated Penn State student but I also know how to act gracefully and not repeatedly call attention to myself, or as previously put, "bitch just to bitch." I guess that makes me insane...

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  17. To Anonymous right above^,

    If the "mothers of children who are no longer with us" are actually hurting from this article published ONE YEAR AGO, why is Savannah the one speaking about it? If people were so enraged by this amazingly positive article about THON that sheds a light on all the families even if they aren't individually mentioned, why didn't those families say something? Instead, Savannah has decided to make herself some sort of spokesperson for THON (and I am not discrediting her incredible accomplishments for THON, because anyone can see how involved she was and what she did for THON, so thank you.) and be the voice for families that didn't really know they needed one.

    Bottom line, these families are receiving selfless love in the form of emotional support and monetary support from Penn State students and the people who donated over $100 million to THON over the years. Article or no article, they should be so incredibly thankful which I think they are. Yes, some families were hurt. I understand that. However, these families are direct benefactors from the Four Diamonds Fund. A lot of parents of children with childhood cancer don't get to interact with such an amazing organization that supports them and their child. Penn State and Penn State Hershey Children's Medical Center are two organizations that, like Onward State, independent THON orgs, dancers, corporate sponsors, fraternities and sororities alike, selflessly and lovingly support THON with honesty and integrity.

    Again, FTK always from a student of the Class of 2016.

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    1. Another comment was published since I wrote mine, and I referring to Anonymous above the one that was just published, to be clear.

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    2. Hello Student of Class 2016,

      I believe she was speaking on behalf of these individuals because they reached out to her. Savannah's particular position while she was an FR captain was as the Bereaved Family contact, so she was able to get close to these families, and they are comfortable contacting her about this. (She can also identify strongly with them because not only Jed, but also Jaz)

      The families may have only just seen it. Onward State publishes a lot of articles, and if someone doesn't know a specific article exists they aren't going to read it. The families could have been hurt when it was originally published, but that is something we may never know.

      THON is incredibly, and I know that this article shows so many incredibly parts of why THON is amazing! If you are involved with THON (through any means), thank you for all that you do! As someone close with many Four Diamonds families, I can honestly say that your support and dedication means more than words can express.

      FTK always and forever,
      Student Class of 2014

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    3. Please refer to comments by Tammy Cope. I spoke on behalf of the Cope family (who should not HAVE to be called out here at all). Jazmine was like a sister to me and I consider Tammy and Jay to be like second parents.

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    4. @Savannah: It's great that you were a FR captain because I can only imagine what an emotional position that was. In no way am I saying anything bad directly toward you or specific families or asking you to call out the Cope family. I would never ask that of anyone. I was only attempting to understand why a devout Penn Stater would aggressively attack a fellow Penn Stater and assume things about him and OS when the article was so so positively slanted toward THON.

      @Class of 2014: Thank you for your kind words! I am involved in THON in many ways and love every second of it. As you know, it's such an enriching event and also, I thank you for your involvement and my prayers are always with all Four Diamonds families. Also thank you for clearing some facts up for readers since I was probably not the only one curious as to why Savannah was the contact for these families.

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    5. "Please refer to comments by Tammy Cope. I spoke on behalf of the Cope family (who should not HAVE to be called out here at all). Jazmine was like a sister to me and I consider Tammy and Jay to be like second parents."

      Nothing in either of your emails to Kevin indicated you were speaking out on behalf of just the Cope family. I am fairly confident you realize this.

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    6. I shouldn't have had to call out and name a family that came to me in a private, personal conversation. I am sad that it had to happen here. I am also a Four Diamonds family, could I not speak on behalf of MYSELF or my mother? I noted that right away and that should have stood for something but instead Kevin responded like I was a second class citizen.

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    7. A second class citizen? Dramatic much? He responded to you like he would anyone writing a displeased letter to his organization.

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  18. I think the original article is great, very positive and inspiring. Considering the names listed originated from a website unrelated to Onward State, this should be an issue taken up with the website who failed to list all the names involved. I think we're forgetting the point here people. This is a positive story which may help raise awareness. It's great to be able to list a few names to put a name or a face (in some cases with pictures), etc behind the words "childhood cancer." These names act act as a representative of the childhood cancer community in this one article. Unfortunately there are just too many names to mention them all in every article published. I understand families' feelings may have been hurt but this isn't just about your child, it's about all the children affected by childhoid cancer. These parents should be happy for the support and awareness being raised by the article, not selfishly feeling angry or hurt because their child isn't named. It shocks me that such a great and inspiring cause and article has turned into an online battle. Don't lose sight of the cause!

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    1. It is a great cause and we would NEVER lose sight of it. But to call families selfish...wow.

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    2. I have to say that this is one of the most presumptuous comments I've read on this situation. Do you realize how ridiculous it sounds to tell Four Diamonds families not "to lose sight of the cause?" These are families that live with cancer, and believe me, you can't lose sight of the cause, even if you wanted to. For those of us who have been personally touched by childhood cancer, it is something that you are cognizant of every moment of every day. And, don't get me started on calling someone "selfish" for being hurt that their child isn't recognized. There is absolutely nothing selfish about wanting your child to be remembered or being hurt by an omission. Frankly, it's a very human response.

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  19. I am shocked that anyone is defending Kevin.

    Kevin's response - both as a professional and someone capable of empathy - should have been, "We at Onward State did want want to hurt anyone. We will add a note saying we wish we could have included every child's name and we are sorry to those who were not included. Moving forward we will try to use terms like 'THON families' or 'THON children,' unless an article is actually about a specific child."

    Even if he didn't agree with Savannah and has contempt for her for some reason, that is how an editor is supposed to respond. Come on Penn Staters, you are supposed to have some class.

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  20. Everyone that is posting on behalf of Onward State should be ashamed of themselves. If any one of you would like to discuss this further with me, yes, I am one of the hurt parents please feel free to email ME at baheart@comcast.net. I am disgusted that you all are missing the big picture here.. This isn't about Savannah. Hell, her brother was mentioned in the article! This is about being a bit more sensitive to those families who lost a child for God's sake.

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  21. Why do so many people hide behind "anonymous"? If you are that adamant about your position and comments then sign your name. To the "anonymous" that said Savannah is trying to put herself on a pedestal, who are you and do you actually know her? (you obviously do not know her) This whole thing is about the families that contacted HER to talk about how hurt they were. She is speaking for them because THEY contacted her. If the response she had gotten back had been mature and shown a bit of compassion then it would have gone no further. Some of the comments on here from people that say they are part of the THON community are just disappointing to me. Fist of all, like I said earlier, sign your NAME, take ownership of your words. Secondly, the anger and nastiness of some of the comments directed at Savannah and other THON families makes me question how well you know any of the families and how well you understand what THON is about. THON has been a part of our lives since Jed was diagnosed in 2002. Our first THON was 2003. How long, all of you "anonymous" people, have you been involved in THON? Do you or have you ever had a child or sibling with cancer?
    Yes, I am Savannah and Jed's mother. Jed's name was listed in the blog post and I even commented on it because it is ALWAYS a wonderful feeling to know someone remembered your child. When I realized so many were missing I felt sick and sad because I also am aware of how awful that feels.
    All that was needed was a kind, compassionate, and caring response from the editor. Showing some grace and maturity would have been more than enough and would have sufficed. Savannah was speaking up for the people that contacted her, that is what she does. She speaks for those of us who may be to tired, beat down, sad and brokenhearted to do it ourselves. For anyone to think that is her way of putting herself on a pedestal is utterly ridiculous. She does what she does out of a deep love and caring for all Four Diamonds families and for THON and for Penn State. This is not for her or her ego or anything like that. Believe me when I say that she would trade THON, The Four Diamonds, Penn State, and all things childhood cancer related that surround her life to have her little brother back.
    ....and back to my first point sign your NAME, own what you say.
    Kristin Buckley

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  22. I believe they were posting their information since people seem to have issue with THEM...I don't think anyone has issues with you, Tammy, but thank for for including your e-mail.

    If you feel people are "missing the big picture", and it's worth informing people, why no post here publicly? This frankly IS about Savannah, and she made it so, by initiating this e-mail thread, and moreover because she posted it publicly, in what I can only assume was an attempt to shame Kevin, which can safely say has backfired.

    Finally, if you do have issue with the emitting of names, which you have every right to have, why not reach out to Onward State yourself? Or, better yet, ask THON, since the names were acquired through their website. If you're feeling hurt, why not write to OS yourself? Did you ask Savannah to write the e-mail on your behalf? That part seems strange to me.

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  23. Savannah, why did you delete my earlier comment?

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    1. She deleted mine too. She must realize that she made the wrong choice in posting this email exchange for no reason.

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    2. No comments are being deleted. If they were don't you think I would delete all of the pro-OS ones?
      If you have an issue take it up with your internet provider. That isn't my problem.

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    3. Mine was deleted as well. It wasn't my internet provider, because it was previously visible here.

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  24. I'm finished here. You can say what you need to say, positive or negative. I have a job and a life and another charitable organization to focus on.

    What is done is done and quite frankly, I appreciate your opinions on whether this should have been posted or not but no one asked for them. This was For the Kids.

    Thank you for your feedback. Should you have anything else to say, please direct it to Onward State at kevin@onwardstate.com or myself at srs0504@gmail.com.

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  25. This whole thing certainly wasn't for the kids, but rather for Savannah Smith.

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  26. I'd just like to respectfully submit an ethical argument on Onward State's behalf in this situation. (Full disclosure: I'm a former Onward Stater myself, and a current alum working as an editor at a weekly newspaper.) When Four Diamonds families submit their stories to be published on THON's website, they are giving permission to the organization to publicly post information about their private lives.

    As a media outlet, if Onward State were to include the names of children who's families hadn't given express permission to post information about them publicly, they could very possibly receive criticism for doing that -- the opposite reason from the one that started this debate. And while I doubt any families would pursue legal action for that (and am honestly unsure of whether they'd have a case for invasion of privacy), it is still certainly an ethical dilemma. Some families probably don't want their child's name posted in a public forum, for a number of understandable reasons. I've had parents ask me not to print the names of their young children in my publication before.

    For those involved in the media, these are things we have to think about regularly before we publish anything. Hope this helps you understand this issue from another perspective.

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