LOS ANGELES -- THON came to Hollywood for the second time yesterday during Lights. Camera. Cure, a six-hour dance party at Avalon Hollywood that raised $67,851.10 for The Four Diamonds Fund.
“I am just blown away, I am just so honored to be a part of THON and what they do for the Four Diamonds Fund and for the kids,” Executive Producer of Lights. Camera. Cure. Gary Werkheiser, Class of 1981, said shortly after the total was announced.
Inspired by Penn State’s 46-hour Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, 170 dancers, a mix of Penn State alumni and Los Angeles natives of all ages, busted moves with Hollywood celebrities, who strolled into the historic Spanish cathedral-turned-nightclub on the red carpet.
Profits from general donations, ticket sales, a silent auction and sponsors cumulated to beat the event’s total of $37,000 last year, falling in line with its goal to raise $50,000 to $70,000 this year. Dancers were required to commit to raising at least $250.
Spirits remained high during the nonstop concert, which opened with performances from singer/songwriters Drake Bell and Kait Weston. Celebrities and dancers integrated in circles on the dance floor, holding hands and swaying to serenades from Reigh Morton, only clearing the floor for the popping, locking and breaking of dance crews Antics Performance and ATE9.
Hosts, actors Devon Werkheiser ("Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide") and Gia Mantegna ("In the Land of Women"), clowned in between performers BEX, the Cannoneers, VanJess, Reign Morton and baton twirlers Blue Band Feature Twirler Matt Freeman, Purdue’s Golden Girl and Miss Indiana MerrieBeth Cox and former Blue Band Feature Twirler John "Baton" Mitchell.
Weston also danced this year – her team of five raised the most out of all the fundraisers with a total of $4,670.00. She said she went canning on Hollywood Boulevard, and donated nearly $1,000 by herself. A YouTube star, she performed at THON in 2012 to a crowd of linked arms, covering Lady Antebellum’s “Never Alone” with former THON public relations captain Dan Fratoni. She said she is excited to perform at THON again this year.
When the total was announced, she and Matt Rey, one of three other members dancing on Team Barracudas, cried and embraced.
“It’s so surreal, you know that every single dollar is hope for a family…this benefit means so much to me,” Weston said.
Alumnus Mitch Belding, of San Diego, said the event gave him a chance to dance he didn’t have as a member of the morale committee before graduating in 2009.
“There are so many aspects of it that are just like the THON that you participate at back at University Park,” Belding said. “You’re up and you're down, sometimes you’re just bawling your eyes out and sometimes you’re on cloud nine dancing with friends.”
Quiet moments were during family time, where Shayne and Anne Beecher, the parents of THON child Charlie Beecher, thanked the audience for their support to the Four Diamonds Fund, which Shayne credits for saving the life of his son, who is now two years cancer-free.
“Starting in the Mary White Building, Rec Hall, Bryce Jordan Center and now the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood…It’s now official, we are coast to coast, and this isn’t a Pennsylvania thing, it’s not a California thing, it’s a global thing,” Shayne Beecher said. “Let’s beat cancer.”
A small group of roughly 20 dedicated volunteers and members of the Penn State Alumni Association Los Angeles planning committees helped make the event a success, said organizer and PSU alumnus Trevor Kress, Class of 2007.
Gary Werkhesier came up with the idea of the Hollywood Dance-a-THON after hosting a dinner in his backyard to raise money for THON.
The success of the beta event led him to organize Lights. Camera. Cure. With the help of his son’s connections in Hollywood, celebrities like Joe Mantegna ("Criminal Minds"), Brandon Routh ("Superman Returns"), and Adam Sevani ("Step Up") came to support.
“We’re going have to get all the alumni on the West Coast out here next year,” Werkheiser said. “We’re going to make it bigger and better.”