With many questions about the upcoming academic year still unanswered, one in particular that may be on students’ minds is what the THON 2021 weekend will look like.
Coronavirus cases continue to rise throughout the country, and the threat of a potential second wave of the virus makes planning for future events difficult. However, students are hoping THON 2021 will be the best dance marathon yet.
Katie Solomon, the THON 2021 executive director, said via email that committees have not yet started planning out what the event will look like, as students are currently focused on the remainder of the summer and the start of the fall semester.
"There is still so much uncertainty ahead that we likely will not be making any firm decisions about THON Weekend logistics until much later in the year," Solomon (senior-criminology and sociology) said.
Natalie Ament attended her first THON in February as a dancer for the Lehigh Valley commonwealth campus. Ament (junior-rehabilitation and human services) said she’s looking forward to the chance to dance again in 2021.
If the coronavirus persists into next year, however, Ament said the number of dancers may have to be cut in order to accommodate social distancing guidelines in the Bryce Jordan Center. Additionally, spectator participation may be limited.
“That would be really hard... not only on the dancers but also on the families, because I feel like what makes [THON] so powerful are the numbers [of people],” Ament said.
As a past dancer, Ament said the number of people in the stands was the biggest motivator to keep going. She said dancers can tell the time of day by assessing how packed the BJC is, and small crowds made her “hit a wall.”
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THON children, who are immunocompromised, are also at a higher risk of developing serious symptoms as a result of the coronavirus, though Ament hopes they may still have the opportunity to attend the dance marathon. However, she said each family has different circumstances that could prevent them from coming.
“It would [vary] family-to-family,” Ament said, recalling a THON child who wasn’t able to make it in years past due to the presence of large crowds.
To ensure that as many people as possible can participate, Ament said there may be hours set up to allow a certain number of people into the BJC at a time. Nonetheless, she believes the THON community will find a way to keep the morale and energy of the event high.
Grace Tomlinson is the executive producer of 46Live, the THON livestream, and expects the stream to make a big difference for people who can’t make it to the in-person event.
Tomlinson (junior-telecommunications and international relations) said 46Live reached over 76 countries in February for THON 2020, and that number could continue to rise.
“We might reach a bigger audience this year, whether it be building on our brand or because of COVID,” Tomlinson said, adding that the large audience size is her “favorite” thing about 46Live.
While she is unsure what the dance marathon will look like in 2021, Tomlinson is confident the livestream will be able to keep students and alumni across the world excited for the weekend. Tomlinson said the mission of 46Live will always be to increase THON viewership.
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“I think we’re all really into the cause of THON, and we just want to see it happen,” Tomlinson said. “Whatever happens... we’ll be there.”
Liam Cummings had the opportunity to attend THON for four straight years as a member of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’s THON organization, spending his last year as a dancer relations captain before graduating in the spring. Cummings said he couldn’t make any predictions for what the THON weekend may bring, but he hopes it will exude the same energy it does every year.
“THON might look different next year compared to previous years, but you know, raising money for children fighting pediatric cancer and continuing to be that support system for those families is the most important part," Cummings said. "That’s why THON is the best, and that’s what we’re gonna keep on doing."
As for the number of dancers and spectators able to participate, Cummings said it’s up to the THON community to “hold each other accountable” to allow for the highest turnout possible. Cummings explained that people should encourage others to follow safety regulations and call people out when they see violations.
One significant impact of the pandemic has been the rising rate of unemployment, which Ament said may impact fundraising. However, Cummings believes THON will be able to bounce back with help from online fundraising.
The THON community continues to look forward to THON 2021 despite the likelihood of many safety regulations being put in place. While little concrete plans can be established now, students and alumni alike are confident the dance marathon will not be canceled.