If you think for a second that today’s youth are misdirected, unfocused and uncaring, I need to point you to an event that happened this past weekend that may change your mind.
The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, or THON, is a stay-on-your-feet and stay awake for 46 hours, not-for-the-faint-at-heart event held each February in Happy Valley. All in a fight to find a cure for childhood cancer so that no child has to hear the words, “You have cancer.”
And after the most turbulent months in the school’s history, shaking it to its very core, this group of 700 dancers and 15,000 student volunteers pulled together to focus on what makes them unique. They danced “FTK” – For The Kids – to raise a staggering $10,686,924.83.
That is not a typo: $10.6 MILLION. In one event. Last year’s record was shattered by $1.1 million. And THON remains the largest student run philanthropic event in the world.
THON began in 1973, when 39 dancer couples participated in the first Dance Marathon and raised $2,000. Since then, THON has outgrown two gyms and is now housed in PSU’s Bryce Jordan Center. To give you an idea of just how many people were in attendance, the facility had to close its doors three times during the 46-hour event due to capacity (15,000).
Since its beginnings, THON has raised more than $78 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. The Four Diamonds Fund pays for treatment costs that insurance will not cover, a medical team that cares for children with pediatric cancer, and funds pediatric cancer research.
For me, THON has a special place in my heart. I participated as a Morale person as well as a Dancer (when it was in White Building). I have also brought my daughters up on THON, attending the events from the time they were young (when it was in Rec Hall). My oldest daughter was an instrumental part of her high school’s Mini-THON program, where she was the Co-Head her senior year (BTW, the Mini-THONS raised $1.3 million during 2010-2011, and that is not included what’s raised in February). My youngest daughter is now inspired to be a pediatric oncology nurse.
Another amazing thing THON has done: while I was watching the streaming video of the final hours today (we usually try to make it to every THON lately but this year didn’t work out), the twitter feeds were announcing results of other THONS. It seems that other schools have been inspired to also host dance marathons, all benefiting pediatric cancer: Ohio University, University of Maryland, University of Connecticut.
Unbelievable kids achieving the unbelievable.