Would a dance marathon by any other name be as sweet?
Forty years ago, the Interfraternity Council president thought a dance marathon would be a fun way to raise money for a good cause. Fourteen years and $1 million dollars later in 1987, students in the Interfraternity Council dance marathon coined the name THON, according to THON.org.
Three years later, the dance marathon was officially named the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, which it has remained for the last 22 years.
But the unofficial name —THON — that was adopted in 1987 has also remained over the decades.
Now, more than 15,000 students participate in the dance marathon each year. That figure includes 250 student groups, 80 greek chapters, 23 special interest groups, 19 commonwealth campuses and four special mission campuses, according to THON.org.
THON has raised more than $89 million to benefit the Four Diamonds Funds at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital over the years. The THON Overall Committee, which organizes the 46-hour dance marathon, is comprised of 15 students, some of whom are not affiliated with a sorority or fraternity.
So, does retaining the name of the dance marathon really matter?
Greek students have been involved with the dance marathon longer than any other organization in its history and have raised millions of dollars over the years to benefit young children with pediatric cancer. But THON is so much bigger now than when it was organized in 1973 by a small group of students.
Organizers of THON should drop the name IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon and simply refer to the 46-hour dance marathon as what it’s referred to throughout the world: THON.
These simple four letters have such great meaning to millions of people. Efforts have expanded beyond University Park. Mini-THONs have popped up in at least 60 schools — all sharing the same motivation to raise money to find a cure to pediatric cancer.
And the number of Mini-Thons is growing. Students from Easton Area High School, for example, are embarking on organizing their first mini-THON this year.
A name change shouldn’t be viewed as setback. Rather, it should be evidence that the organization has come a long way in the past 40 years and continues to grow.
The organization has already showed it is willing to change its name.
In 2010, the official name was removed from the tin cans used for canning in an effort to make the cans and signs more clear to donors. Soon after the change, some members of the Greek community spoke out against the change, unhappy to see that THON had replaced the phrase IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.
It’s understandable to want to give a nod to the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils for their hard work over the years in making THON a household name. But the way it is presented now is misleading because greeks are not the only students involved in the dance marathon.
Rather, Penn State has come together as a whole for the Four Diamonds Fund. The official title of the organization should accurately represent that.