This article appeared in the Fresh Start issue of the Collegian, sent to new Penn State students.
Finding a cure for pediatric cancer is an uphill fight, but Penn State students have been fighting for that cause for almost 40 years.
Every year, many Penn State students plan and organize the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) which is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
In 1977, THON partnered with the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital to help them fight against pediatric cancer.
THON weekend happens in February, and students stand and dance for 46 hours at the Bryce Jordan Center . Besides dancing, students meet some of the Four Diamonds families that are receiving help from THON, and there’s a line dance that students learn during those hours.
This year’s THON 2013 weekend will be held Feb. 15 to 17.
For the THON 2013 Overall Chairperson, Will Martin, (senior-communication science and disorders) his first time at THON in 2008 was a learning experience.
“I didn’t know what to expect until the THON weekend. It was very emotional, but I knew that this organization does a lot of great things that I really wanted to be a part of,” Martin said. “It’s a very eye-opening experience for any student volunteer.”
Barry Bram, senior associate director of unions and student activities in Student Affairs and THON’s Adviser, said that THON is a great opportunity for students to get involved and make a difference in the lives of families and children who are being impacted by pediatric cancer.
“The emotional intangible emotion of THON is beyond words, you really have to live it and experience it to understand what THON is about,” Bram said.
THON weekend is very special for most people and there are some events that are memorable for them.
The most memorable experience that THON Overall Communications Chairwoman Jenna Adams (senior-kinesiology) has from THON was during her freshman year. She was very happy when she first walked in to the Bryce Jordan Center and saw all the hard work everyone did.
For Martin, his favorite moment during THON weekend is “family hour,” which is one of the last hours of THON. He said that when the families speak, it connects everyone.
“When you hear their story, it’s very inspirational and you want to do more and become more involved. There are many people that after THON weekend they want to get involved right away because they are so inspired,” said Martin.
Bram said he also enjoys the last few hours of THON because the building is so alive, colorful and energetic.
“The feelings that I have at that moment standing on the floor and looking up and seeing everyone jumping up and dancing, I can’t describe it. For me it’s very humbling to be part of that,” Bram said.
He also enjoys the previous hours before THON because he is able to see the transformation of the Bryce Jordan Center that at that time is a basketball arena, into THON.
But THON does not only last for a weekend. The organization has many events during the whole year.
Adams advised new students to find an organization that they are interested in and join the THON committees.
“Attend the different THON events, get involved because it’s a great experience and you will make lifelong friends and relationships,” Adams said.
Martin echoed the sentiment, saying the first time a student participates in THON will be especially memorable.
“The first year that you participate is one of the special years that you will always remember and will inspire you for future years,” Martin said.
Students can also get involved by applying to be part of the THON committees. There are 11 committees and applications will be on THON’s website on Sept. 10, Bram said.
“Every single committee makes a difference and THON couldn’t happen without any single student,” Bram said.
THON events start in September with “canning weekends,” in which students travel with their different organizations to raise money for THON. Then, in Oct.13 there is the “THON 5K” and Nov. 7 is the annual “100 days till THON” event.