Kaizen, a Penn State THON general interest organization, hopes to help pediatric cancer patients and their families bear the weight of cancer — literally.
From 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4, to 9 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5, members of Kaizen and supporters carried weighted backpacks —otherwise known as “rucking” — while circling Beaver Stadium and Jeffrey Field.
After paying a $10 fee, about 60 participants formed buddy teams of two or more for a one-hour ruck shift.
Often used as a military exercise, rucking is a familiar activity for the ROTC cadets who make up the majority of Kaizen’s membership.
According to Kaizen President Paul Tretter, his organization wanted to create a unique fundraiser which takes its military identity into account.
“Since the Army has long used rucking as a form of exercise and since a lot of our members are ROTC members, we decided to do a ruck marathon,” Tretter (junior-psychology) said. “Our vision is for this event to grow so that it’s something Kaizen can identify with.”
While Kaizen has held conventional fundraisers in past years, this year, Tretter said the staff plans to organize additional events with a ROTC focus. In its online fundraising for the first ruck marathon, Kaizen targeted Penn State ROTC alumni and families of cadets. Morale Chair Kylie Weaver added the ruck marathon and other Kaizen events help ROTC cadets form friendships outside of training.
“In ROTC, it’s a pretty professional setting, you feel more like coworkers, but in Kaizen, you get to hang out and raise money as friends,” Weaver (sophomore-supply chain management and German) said. “We get to build a strong bond through that.”
Fundraising Chair Autumn Capouillez also saw the ruck marathon as a way to show that ROTC cadets share Penn State’s enthusiasm for THON.
“It’s so easy to see cadets in uniform and assume we’re just a bunch of army kids,” Capouillez (junior-biobehavioral health) said. “We are just like every college kid on campus, we just wanted to bring two good causes working toward one.”
Tretter hopes the event’s prominent location lead to greater awareness of his organization, THON and pediatric cancer research generally.
“I hope people that are riding in their cars, jogging by, they see our signs and they see who we’re doing this for because part of THON’s mission is to raise awareness, making sure people know what we’re out there for,” Tretter said.
When it holds the ruck marathon in future years, Kaizen hopes to increase the number of participants and find corporate sponsors to offset the cost of running the event. Corey Ganz, an Army ROTC cadet who rucked from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, said he looks forward to watching the ruck marathon grow.
“I think the little things do count, this can get to be something bigger and make a big difference,” Ganz (junior-biological anthropology) said. “I was happy to be there.”