Penn State ‘THON’ raises 9.5 million for cancer research

Penn State University students danced the night (and day) away last weekend for THON, the yearlong anticipated dance marathon at the Bryce Jordan Center at University Park.

THON is a student-run philanthropy organization, which began in 1973. The cause: raising funds and awareness for pediatric caner. Since the very first dance marathon, which raised $2,000, THON has raised more than $69 million. The benefits go to The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but now I understand Penn State school spirit,” said Jennifer Slane, chair of THON at Behrend. “It’s something that you can’t entirely know until you’ve been engulfed by it.”

The 707 dancers from each campus were on their feet performing for their cause for 46 straight hours. The physical exhaustion is an expression of the dancer’s support for the cure.

“After 24 hours, we were feeling good,” said senior marketing major Marissa Lanich. “The hardest part was after the first 24. We could feel it, definitely, physically and mentally. I slept about 15 hours, which was less than I expected.”

At the event, the dancers got to interact with Rylee Dorer, Penn State Behrend’s individual THON child, who is now in remission from T-cell lymphoma.

“The background of my phone was set to Rylee, our THON child,” said senior political science major Amanda Schifko. “And every time I opened my phone it helped me because I knew I was doing it for her. Having them on the floor helped me too. You feel pain, happiness, joy.”

THON is not exclusively for the dancers. In order to prepare for the event, students from all of the campuses brave the elements and stand along highways, by malls and by grocery stores, canning in the name of the kids. Also, there have been multiple fundraisers throughout the year which benefit the event. The dancers each had “moralers,” who made signs and cheered for them to keep them motivated through the 46 hours of dancing.

“There was a lot that went into this event: fundraisers, counsel weekends, hours of commitment that required a lot of teamwork to accomplish our goals,” said Slane. “This was a monumental moment for THON and something I’ll never forget.”

This year, THON raised $9,563,016.09, topping last year’s record $7.8 million. Behrend’s total was $22,393.82, and the THON family celebrated with a traditional trip to the creamery.

“I figured it was going to be $8.5 million,” said Schifko. “When they flipped over the nine, I just lost it, grabbed Rylee and started hugging her and grabbed the other dancers and hugged everyone. Our feet didn’t hurt anymore, I wasn’t delusional anymore, it snapped me back into reality that all this time and all this year we were working for $9.5 million.”

“This was something I always dreamed about, hoped someday I would get the opportunity to dance, it’s so competitive, wanted to get the opportunity. Just proud and so excited that I got to be a part of that,” said Lanich.

The rewards of Slane’s hard work were apparent in her emotional reminisce.

“Being together, crying, rejoicing the fact that our Thon child, Rylee, is in remission. That’s what it was all about,” said Slane. “In the end, it was great.”

KATIE DUFFY

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