Starting today, viewers will get a look into the lives touched by the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon and into the behind-the-scenes efforts of the students who work tirelessly to organize it.
The documentary, “Why We Dance: The Story of THON,” will air locally at 8 p.m tonight on WPSU. It will also stream live at www.wpsu.org. The documentary chronicles the yearlong process leading up to THON and details the time Penn State students dedicate to the dance marathon.
“I think really what our goal was for people who aren’t as familiar with THON to have a better understanding of the entire yearlong event, to understand that it’s not just a two-day event in February,” Executive Producer Jeff Hughes said.
Hughes said that when he was a Penn State student, he knew about THON, but thought it was a “two-day dance party.” He did not know it was a yearlong effort.
When he and the rest of the team involved in the documentary got together, they decided the story they wanted to tell was of the work that goes into THON throughout the year.
The documentary also offers a glimpse into the lives of some of the families who directly benefit from the Four Diamonds Fund. One such family is the Carter family. Heather Carter said her son Bryce, now 14, was diagnosed with cancer in February 2011.
“Right from the beginning, we were given a social worker from the Four Diamonds Fund to help in all aspects of the treatment and to help us with everything,” Heather Carter, of Hummelstown, Pa. said. “They helped us right from the beginning in all of the different programs that were available to us.”
A few months after Bryce’s diagnosis, Carter said she received a phone call from the Four Diamonds office asking if they would like to be a part of the documentary. At first, Carter did not know if Bryce would like the idea since he does not like to be the center of attention.
“Bryce said, ‘Mommy, I’ll do it. If I can help other people, that would be wonderful,’” Carter said. “This whole journey has changed him as a person.”
Carter said the documentary followed their family throughout Bryce’s treatment process. They followed him as he went to doctor’s appointments, had his blood work done and was admitted into the hospital. She said that her family was the only one that filmmakers followed throughout the entire process. Finally, filmmakers shot the family’s experience at THON weekend.
Carter said she and her family recently had the opportunity to view the documentary. “I wasn’t prepared to see Bryce so sick again,” she said. “We cried through pretty much the whole thing, but they did a super, super job.”
She said she was proud of the filmmakers’ work and added that her family learned a lot about the students’ level of involvement in THON.
THON Overall Chairperson Will Martin also said viewers will learn a lot from the documentary.
“I think they’ll learn our connection with the Four Diamonds Fund and how we support the fund financially and emotionally,” Martin (senior-communication sciences and disorders) said.
Martin added that the “powerful” film recognizes the efforts of not only student volunteers, but also of supporters and alumni.
Hughes said that so far, the documentary has premiered at alumni gatherings in cities such as Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. In addition, the State College advanced screening was held Friday at the State Theatre.
Hughes said that viewers’ response to the preview screenings of the documentary has been just as positive.
“They loved it,” he said. “It was a very passionate response.”
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