Blog: Penn State Dances 46 Hours Straight for Charity
They say it is the smiles on the kids’ faces. It is the power in knowing deep inside you did something remarkable. And it’s the 9.5 million dollars you helped raise in one year.
THON, or the Penn State Inter-fraternity Committee/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, is a 46-hour dance marathon that raises money for pediatric cancer for the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Children’s Hospital. The dance marathon began in 1973 and donates money to the Four Diamonds Fund. To date, more than 78 million dollars has been donated to the fund. This money goes to the families of children who have some form of pediatric cancer. The fund helps pay for the cost of treatment, which can be very expensive, as well as expenses that could disrupt the wellbeing of the child (such as bills—electricity, mortgage, etc.). The fund also supports the medical team that helps these children and helps fund pediatric cancer research through start-up grants. It also supports the Four Diamonds Pediatric Cancer Research Institute.
You may think that Penn State students only care about drinking (they were formerly the number one party school according to the Princeton Review in 2009). However, these students will raise money and dance for 46 hours straight (no sitting or sleeping allowed) all to help children who are stricken with some form of pediatric cancer.
To Penn State student Dan Yesenosky, there is nothing like THON. And that it’s truly an emotional event all to help those in need.
“Sophomore year I went on the floor to visit my friends from my organization who were dancing,” he said. “Before that, I had just been in the stands at THON, not on the floor. It is another world. THAT is THON.”
Yesenosky added that actually being down on the dance floor is, “what it is all about.”
“Within five minutes I knew what THON was really all about and knew how big, how emotional and how meaningful it truly was, and I knew right there that I wanted to dance,” he said.
In 2010, Yesenosky was one of two dancers for the Dance For The Kids independent organization. He said seeing the kids with cancer and their families is what makes the 46 hours seem like nothing. The reason he joined THON wasn’t to just feel good about himself or to donate his free time.
“I wanted to join THON because it feels great to help people,” he said. “Sometimes the best feeling in the world isn't when something good happens to you, but when something good happens to someone else. I would rather see the look on the mother of a 4-year old with leukemia when she smiles because we were canning for her son, than see anything else.”
This year, THON was rated one of the most highly efficient philanthropies in the world. THON gives 96.58 percent of total earnings to the Four Diamonds Fund. Most highly efficient philanthropies are only able to donate 75 percent of what they raise directly to the organization of their choice.
Thon Overall Chairperson Elaine Tanella says THON is efficient for numerous reasons.
“Something that we have that a lot of other non-profits and charities don’t have is an amazing volunteer force,” she said. “Students donate their time, that’s why we are so efficient. We don’t have to create that amazing environment, because we have very generous donors.”
With over 435,000 views, Four Diamonds child Tucker Haas became an instant YouTube sensation, singing “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas at THON 2010. And Khloe Kardashian even supported the organization by posting about the dance marathon on her personal website for both THON 2010 and THON 2011.
Students participating in more than 350 organizations that encompass THON raise money each year. One way students do so is by canning. If you have ever seen students with cans and signs for THON, they are asking for money for children whose parents cannot afford treatment, bills, among other things. These students will go in snow, rain and cold weather—anything to raise money for children.
THON includes over 15,000 student volunteers, around 700 dancers, and has donated more than 78 million dollars.
Tanella says it is important to donate to philanthropies like THON because it can make a difference, one penny at a time.
“Literally every penny makes a difference,” she said. “Every penny. Whether it’s paying for a child’s treatment or some research equipment. It amazes me, every time I think about it, 15000 students who want to make a difference in a family’s life.”
Although I have never truly been a part of THON (I briefly joined the Springfield organization my freshman year), I have spent the past two years covering the marathon as media. Being on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center (where THON has been held since 2007) is honestly a unique experience. These kids have or are currently battling cancer, and to see them run around and be able to forget about the cancer, the sickness and the treatments for an entire weekend is an eye-opening experience. To see thousands of Penn State students help these children do so is absolutely amazing.
For an entire weekend (usually held the third weekend every February), these students drop all homework, all partying and spending times with friends to help children with cancer forget about everything in the world.
I am proud to say I go to Penn State University. I am proud to say my school raised over 9.5 million dollars last year for pediatric cancer. And I am proud to say my school has done amazing things, raising over 78 million dollars for the Four Diamonds Fund at the Milton S. Hershey Children’s Hospital (located in Hershey, Pa.).
Nothing is more important than to see a sick child simply smile and be okay for just one weekend. And nothing is greater than seeing the Bryce Jordan Center filled with thousands of people chanting, “FTK—FOR THE KIDS.”
If you want to donate, please visit www.THON.org. And make sure to check out your school’s website to see if they are doing something similar to help children in need. Every penny makes a difference.