By Nick Lawrie
For The Diamondback
It wasn't Jaiwen Hsu's first time at Terp Thon.
Hsu, 18, has been coming for five years -— he's one of the 'Miracle Kids' celebrated at the University of Maryland's annual dance marathon, which benefits Children's National Health System in Washington.
This Saturday, though, was special. Hsu, an osteosarcoma survivor, had an announcement to make before the more than 1,000 people who had pledged to dance for 12 hours in Reckord Armory.
The Walt Whitman High School senior decided to officially commit to attend this university.
"I knew for a while that I was going to UMD," he said. "I still had to wait to see if I got in, but when I heard the news, there was no hesitation in accepting. UMD is so familiar to me that I never considered going anywhere else."
Much of this familiarity is due to his involvement with Terp Thon.
His older sister, Kaiwei Hsu, is the organization's executive director. Under her leadership, the organization this year raised a record $1 million for the hospital that saved her brother's life.
The senior public health science major said she's seen firsthand the impact Terp Thon has had on her brother.
"Over the years, I've watched Jaiwen gain the confidence to share his story in front of thousands of students and find some of his closest friends and supporters through Terp Thon," she said. "Jaiwen has chosen to use his experience to inspire others to fight — not for him, but for the kids who still need our help."
Jaiwen Hsu was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in 2010. He had part of his left femur amputated, and underwent chemotherapy treatment for a year.
"Terp Thon has enabled me to spread my cause to so many more people," he said. "When I first joined five years ago, I never expected [it] to become such an impactful organization in my life."
Terp Thon has not just affected Hsu. His involvement in Terp Thon has inspired thousands of university students, too. For freshman accounting and finance major Caitlin Sien, hearing Hsu's story "hits home that anyone could be impacted by [a sickness] like this."
"He also shows how much of an impact Terp Thon in general has on these kids and how the event itself is really amazing, without even taking into account the money we raise," said Sien, who attended Terp Thon for the first time last weekend. "Just showing the kids we are there to support them can have an impact."
Fifteen families of Miracle Kids attended Saturday's dance marathon, and more than 3,000 people were registered for the event.
Hsu said he's excited to attend this university, where he can "finally join so many of the organizations who have supported me in the past years."
Hsu will be the sixth member of his family to attend the state's flagship university, and his sister said the family is "thrilled to watch [Jaiwen] do big things at UMD."
Hsu was accepted into the business school but has not yet decided on a major. He plans to explore interests in engineering, art and literature.
"I know Maryland offers a lot, so I'm excited to see where I end up," he said. "I'm most excited to start a new chapter in my life. I'm not dropping everything I have right now and starting over, but instead advancing [the interests] I already have."
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a former version of this article misgendered Caitlin Sien. This story has been updated.