When I first arrived onto campus this past summer, all I heard about was this magical event called “THON.” From being a native of New York and spending the past couple of years down in New Orleans, I had no clue what “THON” meant, let alone what the event actually was! Throughout the course of the year, I’ve slowly developed an understanding for THON, the passion that it ignites within our students, and just how special and wonderful this event is for Penn State, the Four Diamonds Fund, and everyone else involved!
For those that have no prior knowledge of THON like I did, THON was organized in 1973 by a group of students looking to add some excitement to campus in the dreary month of February and to give back to the community. If you do the math, you’ll realize that this year’s THON was the 40thannual THON event. To sum it up in just a few sentences, THON is a dance marathon that lasts forty-six hours with the sole purpose of conquering pediatric cancer and providing funds for research, aid to Four Diamonds families during their time of need, and many other aspects of the two. THON has become so popular that it has branched out to include other Universities in the country and elementary, middle, and high schools across the state and nation in mini-THON’s.
Now that you have a vague understanding of THON, let me dive into the meat and potatoes of this piece. THON has been held in the Bryce Jordan Center of University Park for the past several years and there are usually long lines to even get into the building to be a part of the spectacle. Once you get inside, though, it is an atmosphere of organized mayhem, excitement, passion, and emotion as the weekend takes you through many high’s and low’s as students and compassionate human beings.
Each commonwealth campus is given a designated number of “dancers” who are on the floor for all forty-six hours depending on the amount of money that a campus or student organization fundraises. Only Penn State students are allowed to be dancers and they must get approved to dance from their host Four Diamonds family. This year, the York campus had two dancers and two host families. The biggest thing that one needs to realize is that once you’re in the Bryce Jordan Center, that means that there is no sitting down in any way, shape, or form.
For those students that attend and cheer on their dancers, many do so in shifts so that they can get some rest but for our dancers, they must go forty-six hours straight without sitting and without sleeping. This is to simulate the struggle that children with pediatric cancer go through every day as they fight this deadly disease.
There’s more that can be said about THON and I definitely encourage you to watch the PBS special about THON, check out their website (www.thon.org), or even consider attending THON next year. This year, the Penn State York broke their fundraising record and raised $22,550, while THON all together broke their record and raised more than $12.3 million dollars. I highly recommend you to do more research about THON, talk about THON with your student, and encourage your student to get involved with this amazing organization. Where else but Penn State can you participate in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world! If all else, share with them FTK, which in the THON world means – For The Kids.