Community fundraises for alum’s cancer treatment

Allegheny College and Meadville community members banded together for an afternoon of song and dance in the Vukovich Center’s Gladys Mullenix Black Theater on Sunday, Jan. 22 to raise money and show their support for an alum facing aggressive stage 4 cancer.

Meadville resident Allen Condon, ’16, was recently diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer, that has already spread into his pelvis, abdomen and lungs. Doctors recommended intensive chemotherapy and radiation, which, combined with the costs of travel to Pittsburgh, where Condon has been receiving treatment since December 2022, added up to a hefty bill. To offset current and future expenses, Condon started a GoFundMe on Nov. 28 with the goal of raising $20,000. 

It was not long before the Allegheny community stepped in to give the alum a helping hand. Professor of Theatre Mark Cosdon and Dance and Movement Studies Instructor Betsy Sumerfield organized a benefit concert on Condon’s behalf, inviting the community to an afternoon of free performances with pay-as-you-will donations encouraged. According to the organizers, it seemed only right to pay kindness forward for Condon, considering his enthusiastic participation in the community throughout the years.

“Since Allen’s graduation and across his years at Allegheny, he was deeply involved in all of the performing art groups here at Allegheny,” Cosdon said.

In his time as an undergraduate, Condon was a valuable member of the campus community, working in the scene shop in the theater department and volunteering as a stage manager for Playshop productions. As his collegiate career progressed, he developed an interest in theatrical lighting and began to design the lighting for both the Playshop and community productions.

Professor and Department Chair of Communication, Film and Theatre Michael Mehler acted as the emcee. Mehler worked with Condon on a summer research project during the alum’s tenure as an undergraduate, developing a series of community-minded performances during Second Saturday markets in downtown Meadville. During the program, he shared memories of Condon’s fledgling involvement in the Meadville community as he bonded with residents, which eventually led to his own choice to stay in Meadville upon graduation.

Condon’s community connections were clear at the benefit, during which every community theater in Meadville contributed either a performance or a donation. Madison Morgan and Tim Solomon performed a selection from the Academy Theater’s upcoming production of “Cabaret,” while Meadville Community Theater previewed a devised number from “Light in Odd Spaces.” French Creek Community Theatre, which he first began collaborating with as a student volunteer. The theater’s board members donated a gift basket of local goods for auction during the benefit. 

Students and emeritus faculty competed with one another during the auction led by Mehler, but the bidding was unexpectedly hijacked when Cosdon made a high bid of $110 that closed the deal.

“I like to create a little bit of mischief,” Cosdon said. “What could be better than, in an auction setting, bidding against yourself, knowing that ultimately, the money was going to a very worthy young person whom I admired and respected?”

Aside from his involvement with the Playshop and community theaters, Condon is an accomplished singer and performer who spent time in the music and dance and movement studies departments.

Condon’s close friend Erin Kylia Sumerfield, ’15, danced in the benefit to his favorite song: “While You Wait for the Others” by Grizzly Bear. The pair met at Allegheny and, despite never performing together, became inseparable while working backstage and “joking around.” Condon spent many holiday breaks with her and her mother, Allegheny’s Betsy Sumerfield, sharing their common passions of performance.

“He just fits right into our family mix,” Sumerfield said.

This sentiment was echoed throughout the benefit by Condon’s college friends, including Bolan Marshall-Hallmark, who cited Condon’s support and love of music as his key support system at Allegheny. Marshall-Hallmark sang “All These Things That I’ve Done” by the Killers, a song that bears special meaning in his friendship with Condon, and invited the audience to sing along with him loud enough for Condon to hear their support. Condon, to protect his heath — and, Mehler joked, as a consummate lighting designer — watched the show from the theater’s soundproof booth.

Despite his heavy involvement in the arts, Condon was a psychology major during his time at Allegheny. Associate Professor and Department Chair of Psychology Lydia Eckstein, who was both Condon’s academic and senior comprehensive project advisor, said he remained dedicated to the arts while adademically pursuing the social sciences, synthesizing all of his passions into his studies.

“He was always really hands-on and really knowledgeable about the more practical matters of life,” she said of Condon’s senior comprehensive project, which studied the effects of lighting on mood and cognitive performance, learning plenty about theatrical lighting herself along the way.

Condon stayed in touch with Eckstein after graduation, connecting over the books they read and going for walks together.

“Allen has become a friend to me over the years,” Eckstein said. “I’m trying to support him and make sure that he knows there are many, many people out there who care about him, who think about him, who want to let him know that he means a lot to them.”

Condon’s treatment is ongoing, and will in future include a surgery to remove a large tumor from the back of his leg. At the moment, the community has raised almost $19,000, close to his $20,000 goal, but this is only a small piece of what he will need for treatment until his full recovery. According to NPR, 60% of those who receive treatment for cancer deplete their life savings to pay for medical care. Likewise, the National Cancer Institute found in 2019 that the average cost for a patient in the initial phase of cancer diagnosis and treatment is $41,800. 

This is about to be the biggest struggle of my life,” Condon wrote on his GoFundMe page. “I’m starting with a relatively low goal because I’m hoping not to have to ask for too much help. I greatly appreciate any help anyone is willing to lend.” With the love that surrounded him during Sunday’s benefit, it’s clear that there is no limit to the support that the Meadville and Allegheny communities will give Condon.

Condon’s GoFundMe is still accepting donations, all of which will go directly to the costs of his treatment and transportation. Donations can be made by visiting or by scanning the QR code in the above slideshow: