Penn State Dance Marathon, aka THON, begins tonight. THON is near and dear to my heart. I was a dancer in 2004. It is a 46 hour (48 when I was a dancer) event with hundreds of college students raising money for kids with cancer, No Sitting No Sleeping, No Kidding. I know I won't do it justice, so here is an exerpt from the THON website:
In 1973, a small group of dedicated Penn State students held our first Dance Marathon. That year, 34 dancers participated and raised $2,000. Since then, THON’s presence in the Penn State community has grown exponentially. THON now has 15,000 student volunteers, 700 dancers, and has raised more than $61 million, benefiting The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Children’s Hospital.
THON is now a year-long effort that raises funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. With the support of students from all across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and THON Alumni all around the world, we continue to make great strides towards finding a cure for all childhood cancers!
The amount of money raised and effort put in by the students at Penn State is truly amazing. There are probably close to 400 organizations and individuals on campus COMPETING for the honor to dance in THON. So for every dancer, there are probably 25 people they represent that are behind them and supporting them. It is the largest student run philanthropy in the WORLD. Other universities, colleges, and high schools try to replicate THON on smaller versions for other causes across the country.
The kids that THON supports are the toughest little warriors I've ever met. These kids are diagnosed with whatever form of cancer and are immediately wisked off to meet with a social worker. The social worker tells them, "Your family has enough to deal with to get your kid healthy, the one thing you should not worry about is money. Your treatment is paid for." PAID for. By college kids, a demographic that often gets labeled as self centered and selfish. Their motto all weekend and really all year is FTK, For The Kids. These students spend a whole year prepping for THON weekend to make it bigger and better than last year. You cannot walk into THON and walk out the same person, even just as a spectator. There are dancers, families, and kids all there for the same reason. It is one weekend a year when the kids do not worry or feel different for having cancer. They are loved, embraced, and lifted up to celebrate their childhood by strangers.
My quick and dirty personal THON story. When touring college campuses, the weekend we went to check out PSU, it was THON weekend. We stopped by and watched for maybe 10 minutes. I walked out knowing it was something special. When finally deciding on schools I knew Penn State was the one for me, but never listed THON as one of the reasons. My junior year I became the THON Chair for my On Campus Area Government. I spent all year organizing fund raising events and talking it up to our group. I danced that year and during the weekend realized this was WHY I was at Penn State. It was the most powerful weekend and the most important thing I have ever done.
Check out their website, donate if you can.
“When they say, ‘We Are Penn State,’ this is what they are talking about.” - Joe Paterno