Campus to honor Maddie Hill on Valentine's Day

Basketball game set for Feb. 14
Photo of young women outside canning for THON

This plaque hangs on the wall in the Penn State York Office of Student Affairs in honor of the late Maddie Hill, a former Penn State York student who died after battling cancer three times.  Members of the 2016 Penn State York Benefiting THON group decided on the plaque in remembrance of her.  She loved THON and fund raised even while undergoing chemotherapy.  She never gave up on working toward finding a cure for pediatric cancer.

Credit: Barbara Dennis

“Fight Like Hill” are three words that serve as an inspiration for many people in the York area and across the state for those who are involved with the Penn State Dance Marathon, affectionately known as THON.  These fighting words remind people of the late Maddie Hill and her amazing battle against pediatric cancer. Hill died on June 29, 2016, after battling cancer three times, and she will be remembered on Monday, Feb. 14 during the annual Maddie Hill Basketball Game at Penn State York. This will be the fifth time a game honoring her is being held; it could not happen in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ceremony, at about 7:30 p.m., will be held between the women’s and men’s basketball games in the campus gym in the Joe and Rosie Ruhl Student Community Center. Several speakers will share a few words in remembrance of Hill during the brief ceremony.

The women play at 6 p.m. and the men play at 8 p.m. when they take on Penn State Hazleton. The event and basketball games are free and open to the public. 

Hill was a Penn State York student majoring in human development and family studies, a Penn State York Benefiting THON member, a Four Diamonds Child, Blue & White Society member, and an inspiration to everyone she met, according to members of the York THON group and York campus faculty and staff.  In the days that led up to her death, Hill studied and did classwork from a bed in the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

A 2015 graduate of Dover High School, Hill was an outstanding soccer player and athlete. Penn State York does not have a women’s soccer team so when discussion began about what to do to honor her, Terri Van Slyke, admissions counselor and former Penn State York women’s basketball coach, and Jeff Barkdoll, interim athletic director at the campus at that time, suggested honoring her at a basketball game. The York THON group agreed, and she was honored for the first time at a Dec. 2, 2016, event. The date for this year’s event, Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, was selected as another way to draw attention to Hill and her amazing life.

In addition, as a permanent tribute to Hill, a plaque honoring her is displayed in the student affairs office located in the Joe and Rosie Ruhl Student Community Center.  This office area, which offers a variety of student services, is also the home to the Student Government Association (SGA).

Basketball players, as well as many others attending the games, will wear #fightlikehill shirts at the event to show their support. The phrase, “Fight like Hill,” became the mantra of Dover community members and others as they supported Hill in her battles with cancer. The phrase lives on as a symbol of Hill’s tenacity and determination. Her love of THON and work to find a cure for pediatric cancer was vigilant.

Donations can be made at Penn State York Benefiting THON's webpage. Checks written in support of THON can be made at the event and should be made payable to: Penn State Dance Marathon or THON, with a note in the memo line to Org. 170. THON Weekend is set for Feb. 18-20 at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania.

THON is the world's largest student-run philanthropy. engaging more than 16,500 students and 25,000 alumni in the fight against childhood cancer. THON's yearlong fundraising and awareness campaign culminates in a 47-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon every February. Since 1977, THON has donated more than $190 million to Four Diamonds at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, funding comprehensive care and critical research.