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Students at Penn State raised nearly $8 million during their annual dance marathon Feb. 19 and 20 to fight pediatric cancer.
They got a little help from a local celebrity.
Tucker Haas of York, Penn., showed up to lead his version of the Black Eyed Peas' hit "Boom Boom Pow" while thousands of people cheered.
Never heard of Tucker Haas? Oh, you will.
At least you'll know his face and voice. A video of the 10-year-old performing the song is going viral on the Internet.
He was already a bit of celebrity before taking the stage at the Penn State marathon. He appeared on "The Today Show" Nov. 12, 2007, after becoming an unofficial member (and the official inspiration) of the Central York High School varsity football team.
Football players even wear black T-shirts with words "Tucker's Team" in bright orange letters.
He was 2 when he was diagnosed with soft-tissue carcinoma, a rare and often deadly form of cancer. His mother Lisa Haas discovered a lump near his ear. A seemingly endless cycle of chemotherapy, medical emergencies and hospital stays followed.
His uncle, Matt Baker, is an assistant coach on the Central York football team. When Tucker was 5, Baker suggested introducing the boy to the team.
Head coach Brad Livingston invited Tucker to watch the second half of the team's second game from the sidelines.
NBC News reports Tucker's been there ever since. The little guy sends his teammates out for every game, telling them, "Just win, baby!"
"I think he's put everything in perspective for our entire community and our football team," Livingston told NBC News three years ago. "A lot of the other schools surrounding the area have picked up the chant. They've raised money. People have embraced him. He's taught us how to love the life we have and make the most of it."
Tucker seems to be a good luck charm all around.
The Panthers won a divisional championship the year Tucker joined the team. Now the Penn State dance marathon has brought in $7.83 million -- up from last year's total of $7.49 million.
The annual event -- called simply "Thon" -- is a 37-year-old tradition culminating in 46 hours of no sitting and no sleeping. Just dancing.
The event raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund, created in 1972 by Charles and Irma Millard in memory of their son Christopher, who died of cancer at the age of 14.
Thon organizers joined forces with the fund in 1977. They've since raised about $69 million to support pediatric cancer research and have covered expenses for about 2,000 families with children being treated at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.
Caitlin Zankowski, the overall chairwoman of Thon this year, tells the New York Daily News that a lot of things went into the success of the event. Still, she adds, the final total was remarkable given the sour economy.
"No matter what the state of the economy is ... students love this and families need us," she tells the paper.
Or as Tucker might put it: "Just win, baby!"
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