Two days before her 17th birthday, Sophie Ruiz was diagnosed with Stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma cancer, which is most often diagnosed in children ages 1 to 5. Like most other pediatric cancer patients, Sophie’s new “normal” became inpatient hospital stays, chemotherapy, hair loss, surgeries, needles and scans.
While cancer took so much away from her (and her family), Sophie’s outlook gave insight to the rest of us. Sophie took to Instagram sharing the good, the bad and the real, where most only portray perfection. She influenced her 4,000 followers to see more than a “cancer patient”. They saw a teenager living the best version of herself despite cancer! This caught the attention of local news outlets and her story was featured in People Magazine.
In the midst of her treatment, this Hempfield High School student used her platform to raise awareness for childhood cancer, share her journey and the care that was provided and fundraise for her school’s Mini-THON. Additionally, she has attended THON, spoken at events like The NYC Hope Gala and local fundraising events that benefit Four Diamonds.
Now, a high school graduate, Sophie is poised to continue being the light – by continuing to advocate, give back and inspire. Sophie is excited to begin Millersville in the fall and pursue her dream of becoming a child life specialist.
Todd Brysiak was born and raised in Delaware County, PA, and moved to central Pennsylvania in 2003. Little did he know at the time how important this move would be for his future family. In June 2016, after a month of flu-like symptoms and nagging leg pain, Todd’s daughter, Ashlyn, was diagnosed with Leukemia. She was only eight-years-old. Like any parents would be, Todd and his wife, Angela, were staggered by this diagnosis. Their vibrant, athletic little girl had quickly become a shell of herself and was fighting for her life before she was even old enough to truly understand the severity of this fight. Fortunately for the Brysiak family, Penn State Children’s Hospital was a mere 20 minutes from their home, which allowed Ashlyn to receive first-class care from one of the nation’s most recognized pediatric cancer hospitals. This began their story as Four Diamonds family.
From day-one, the Brysiak family pledged to share Ashlyn’s story with anyone who would listen. They wanted their fight to be one that raised awareness and drew attention to the need for broader support for pediatric cancer research and funding. In doing so, they have become proud advocates for children like Ashlyn and the Four Diamonds. Todd and Angela have been active participants in an array of Four Diamonds events, and they have shared their story at local Mini-THONs, including Cedar Cliff, East Pennsboro and Camp Hill. Ashlyn’s story has even become a central point for the Mini-THON at Roxbury High School in NJ. The Brysiak family remains incredibly close with their Four Diamonds organization from Penn State University, Ohana, and they are forever grateful for all that Ohana has done for Ashlyn and her little brother, Evan.
In August 2018, Ashlyn marked the end of her cancer treatment and officially became a “cancer survivor.” Todd and the entire Brysiak family continues to speak throughout the region on behalf of Four Diamonds, and they maintain their commitment to share Ashlyn’s story in hopes that it, someday, plays a role in driving the awareness that will cure pediatric cancer.
Barry has worked in Student Affairs at Penn State for 24 years, serving in a variety of roles within both Residence Life, Union and Student Activities, and Student Affairs. He currently serves as the Senior Director of Student Engagement Programs. Additionally, as a part of his responsibilities, Barry advised Penn State's Dance Marathon (THON) from 2008-2013. He has worked with student leaders throughout his professional career and looks forward to discussing challenges and opportunities that come with student leadership.
Barry is originally from Cleveland, Ohio. He has degrees from Miami University in Ohio and The University of Vermont.
Allison and her team are responsible for recruiting almost 4,000 volunteers for the STEM, REAL Life and YES! Programs JA brings to middle and high schools across South Central PA. JA will empower over 40,000 students with these 3 programs and will reach a total of 100,000 students across all of their K-12 programming. Allison has implemented strategies and processes that engage prior volunteers, local businesses, organizations, parents, and the schools in volunteer recruiting.
Allison moved to York, PA from Boston 15 years ago and started her career running the Investor Services Department for Boston Capital, a real estate investment firm with a long standing commitment to investing with impact. Allison graduated from Nichols College where she earned a B.S. in Marketing.
A worldwide talent scout, producer, and industry whiz. Chris created a communications technology for use in the entertainment industry, experienced acquisition at a young age and went on to build The Mediatwist Group, where he developed digital marketing and new media strategies for some of the biggest artists and brands in the world. The Mediatwist Group's past and present projects include Santander Bank and Bank Mobile acquisition, Penn Medicine Geofenced Out of Home, Lavar Arrington (NFL), Five Finger Death Punch, Aerosmith, Shinedown, Patti Stanger, The RockBand Network, The Eagles, Jon Wilkes, REO Speedwagon, Coolio, Krewella and many more. Chris also toured as Executive Producer for Feld Entertainment, the company behind Barnum & Bailey Circus, Monster Jam, Nuclear Cowboys, Disney On Ice, AMA Monster Energy Supercross, ArenaCross, and Marvel Universe Live. While still scouting for new entertainment enhancements for these properties, Chris has a hand in placing artists in arenas and stadiums across the globe. Mediatwist's most recent projects include, social media marketing and digital advertising for Mercedes-Benz and Rock Lititz, the backstage of the world. TMG recently created a geofence technology for the touring & out-of-home industries that is currently being used to marry traditional media with social media for the top grossing shows in all of music and entertainment.
Alden has had a love of lighting design and music since he was in elementary school and always knew that he would turn this passion into an exciting and successful career in production. Beginning at the age of 12, with middle school dances and local birthday & pool parties, Alden followed his dream. Teaming up with best friend T.J. Platts, the two formally entered into a business partnership after graduating from high school creating FnP Productions. Several years later, Alden, a natural self-taught technical whiz, now travels the country designing and working on all levels of indoor and outdoor events ranging from private corporate events to school events to major concert and festival show productions. He specializes in putting together custom packages for his clients which include multiple levels of lighting, production design, special effects, and music/audio services. Alden also expertly and creatively fabricates specialized lighting effects such as FnP’s signature “4 diamonds,” which are a featured show-piece at high school Mini-THONs. Using creative strategies, Alden brings a wealth of knowledge and excitement to each of his productions.
T.J. picked up on Alden’s love of production in middle school and continued to develop his skills on the visual presentation side of FnP’s services. Through an immersive hands-on high school internship, T.J. had the good fortune to learn from some of the best engineers in the industry while working on show-construction and effects for some of the hottest names in the concert tour industry. Bringing these skills and ideas to the FnP partnership, T.J. and Alden now co-design projects that regularly exceed their clients’ expectations with the “WOW” factor. Owning a wide variety of commercial production equipment and having the ability to re-configure and transport it to all different venues allows T.J. to develop creative solutions to meet the needs of all levels of clients. T.J. especially loves working on large-scale projects integrating both audio and visual components of the production.
The Mini-THON Student Leadership Council, comprised of a select group of student leaders, provides feedback and input to the Four Diamonds staff on the Mini-THON program. Council members meet with Four Diamonds staff members to provide recommendations on program elements and assist in developing solutions for program challenges. Council members also serve as representatives of the students participating in Mini-THONs and advocates for Four Diamonds and Mini-THON. Finally, these students provide guidance on current trends with youth and their peers to help grow the Mini-THON program.