Though THON may seem to be dominated by students, if you look closely you’ll see an older generation clad in Penn State blue and white. Penn State alumni make the journey from places far and wide to support their alma mater and what they believe really matters: the cause.
Mike Butter, Class of 1988, traveled to State College from Pittsburgh. He has two daughters involved with THON, Abbi and Hannah. Butter has been to THON twice, and says his favorite part is seeing “young people do great things.”
“It’s wonderfully noble,” Butter said “What they do here will last longer than four years. Coming together like this can last for the rest of someone’s life.”
Heidi Miller, a Penn State Dubois graduate of 2012, makes the drive from Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania. Miller has been coming to THON every year since she graduated, and will come back “as long as she can.”
Miller’s favorite part about THON is seeing it get bigger.
“Eventually they’ll have to find a new place for it,” Miller said.
Many alumni are here to support their children who participate in THON.
Frank Menna, Class of 1972, is here to see his daughter, Sarah, dance for the fundraising group Apollo. Menna has been coming to the Bryce Jordan Center every February for the last four years, and is enjoying it while it lasts.
This year, Menna was on the dance floor for an hour, and said his favorite part was the energy.
“It makes me feel good,” Menna said.
Michelle Herr traveled from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, and is back at THON for the first time in nearly 40 years. Herr is here to visit her daughter, Ali and support the cause.
“It’s so different now,” Herr said “It’s so big and there’s so much support.”
The feeling of support is not lost on Dan Frisbie, an alumnus from the Class of 1988.
“There’s a lot of Christ energy here, and hope,” Frisbie said.
Frisbie is here from Charlottesville, Virginia, in part to support his son, Jimmy and his wife Brooke, both of whom are dancing as alumni. Frisbie attended THON in the '80s where it was held in the White Building. Back then, he played for the Blue Band.
Frisbie has many favorite things about THON, but most important of all is the energy.
“It’s more than you can put your finger on, it’s inspirational,” Frisbie said.
Frisbie believes the efforts of THON spread far beyond the Penn State community.
“With the widespread influence that modern technology affords, events like THON can act like ‘dropping a stone in a pond,’ Frisbie said.
Frisbie is referring to the increasing movement of “Mini-THONs” that occur at local high schools and middle schools and ripple throughout the area.
“First it starts in Centre County, then the region, across Pennsylvania, the country, then maybe even across the world. It’s a grassroots thing.” Frisbie said.
Alumni recognize the importance of what THON is doing, and so many are willing to travel far distances.
“It’s Penn State," Herr said. "That’s what we do.”