Ceremony to honor the life of former Penn State York student Maddie Hill

Penn State York Benefiting THON and the athletics program at the campus keep Hill's memory alive
Male and female students on either side of an easel displaying a photo of the late Maddie Hill

Cassidie Crebs, holding the microphone, a Penn State York student and the chairperson of Penn State York Benefiting THON last year, shares her thoughts about the life of the late Maddie Hill and the inspiration she provides to so many.


Credit: Barbara Dennis

YORK, Pa. — Penn State York will again honor the late Maddie Hill, a former Penn State York student, who serves 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, or THON. She will be remembered on Friday, Dec. 1, during the annual Maddie Hill Basketball Game at the campus.

The fighting words, "Fight Like Hill," also serve to remind people of Hill and her amazing battle against pediatric cancer. Hill died on June 29, 2016, at just 19 years old, after battling cancer three times.

This is the seventh 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., and will take place after the women’s basketball game 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 Beaver. 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, former admissions counselor and women’s basketball coach at Penn State York, and Jeff Barkdoll, who was the interim athletic director at the campus at that time, suggested honoring her at a basketball game. The York THON group agreed, and Hill was honored for the first time at a Dec. 2, 2016, event. Van Slyke has since left the campus and Barkdoll is the athletic director.

Basketball players, as well as many others attending the games, will wear "Fight Like Hill" shirts at the event to show their support. Former Penn State York students and THON members, members of the campus and York community are encouraged to wear their shirts from previous years to honor Hill. 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. The T-shirt for this year was designed by Penn State York Benefiting THON members and includes the numeral 2, Hill’s number in soccer at Dover High School, and are printed using her favorite color, orange. The design pattern within the number on the back of the shirt is to represent her favorite animal, a giraffe.

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

Donations in support of THON can be made online at this link, which goes directly to a page for Penn State York Benefiting THON. Checks written in support of THON can be brought to the event and made payable to: "Penn State Dance Marathon" or "THON," with a note in the check memo line to "Org. 170." THON Weekend is set for Feb. 16-18 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 46-hour, no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon every February. The theme for THON 2024 is "Treasure Every Adventure." Since 1977, THON has donated more than $219 million to Four Diamonds at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, funding comprehensive care and critical research