As the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, THON is a defining event at Penn State and one of the most popular ways to get involved on campus.
The 46-hour event brings thousands of Penn State students, alumni and others together to help raise money for pediatric cancer.
Since 1977, THON has raised more than $157 million for Four Diamonds, a non-profit organization based out of Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. These funds help cover costs for cancer patients and their families, and also fund research and experimentation.
THON has numerous avenues to bring driven students together to help fundraise and support families.
THON outreach coordinators Brighton Wang and Jackson Brown offered advice for those who aren’t involved but interested in joining THON.
Brown (senior-aerospace engineering) explained the difference between THON special interest organizations and committees — the two main ways students can get involved with THON.
“Organizations fundraise for THON and committees more so operate THON,” he said. “There are 11 committees that you are able to fill out a short application for.”
Stephen Polacheck spent his first three years at Penn State in the OPPerations committee. With over 700 members, OPP is THON’s largest committee that focuses on the assembly and cleanup of the weekend-long event.
Now, Polacheck (senior-applied data science) has moved into the captain position, holding the title of supply coordinator operations captain.
Brown said applications for committee members will be released on Monday, Sep. 9 and will close on Friday, Sep. 20. These applications will be available online at think.thon.org, where committee member descriptions are also located for more details about the different committees.
After joining a committee, Brown said his involvement in THON is very rewarding.
“You’re giving joy to someone else and making someone else smile, to change a child or a child’s family,” Brown said.
Wang (senior-public relations) added that THON has introduced him to some of his best friends.
“I’ve made lifelong friends in my committee,” Wang said. “It’s so easy to find a home at Penn State in THON, it is just such an inclusive environment.”
Wang and Brown said to reach out to email@example.com with any questions or concerns about committee sign ups.
On the fundraising side of THON, Natalie Sommer is involved in the THON organization Apollo. Sommer (sophomore-industrial engineering) said the idea of joining a THON organization simply came to her while scrolling through the list of Penn State clubs online with her roommate and picking the first org she saw.
Now on her second year of participating in the org, she is happy with her quick decision.
“Everybody in Apollo was super welcoming [from the] start, which made me feel good about getting involved,” she said.
A complete list of THON organizations can be found on Penn State’s club directory website. Other popular THON organizations students can join include Atlas, Tetra, Ohana, Prism, Impact and Springfield.
If students want to get involved in THON but don’t wish to join THON-specific groups, they can join groups like the Penn State Filipino Association and the Puerto Rican Student Association.
“No matter what organization it is, it’s all for a good cause and such an amazing experience,” Sommer said.
Amanda Clark is not in a special interest organization herself, but said she gets involved in THON fundraising through the Student Society of Architectural Engineers.
“You don’t have to join a huge organization to help out, you can also stay small and [choose] something close to your major,” Clark (junior-architectural engineering) said.
Clark said she hasn’t had too much experience with THON, but has other friends who are more involved within her club.
“I kind of get the outskirts energy of THON which is still enjoyable,” Clark said.
This “outskirts” energy of THON is felt through State College almost all year, with continuous preparation and events such as the “100 days until THON” to build THON excitement.
“I would suggest getting involved, it is a super easy way to meet a ton of people and develop leadership roles,” Polacheck said. “You are a part of something bigger than yourself.”