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Four Education Students Dance 46 Hours to Beat Pediatric Cancer

Penn State’s Student Chapter of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (SPSEA) raised more than $10,000 for THON 2007.

By Katlyn McGraw (March 2007)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The largest student-run philanthropy in the world would not be complete without the efforts of students involved in Penn State’s Student Chapter of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (SPSEA).


THON_07_jess.jpgAllison Renaut (left) with Jess Toepher


As a participating organization, the SPSEA raised more than $10,000 of the total $5.2 million raised for the 2007 Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center. Proceeds from THON are donated to the Four Diamonds Fund, which provides financial, emotional, and medical support for families with children diagnosed with cancer.

The SPSEA went on three canning trips including day trips and weekend trips to raise money for THON. The members also organized their second annual letter-drive in which they send letters to families and friends to explain what THON is and to request donations.

The SPSEA also boasts a unique resource—teachers.

“Last year, a middle school teacher organized a dance and sent us $1,000, all of which the dance had raised in ticket sales,” said Lori Melfi, SPSEA president. “We love having teachers involved in THON because it means that they are telling their students about THON and getting them involved, which is awesome.”

In 2007, the SPSEA was awarded four dancer positions that were filled by Laura Minneci, Allison Renaut, Jess Toepher, and Megan Zegari. The organization was also given an additional organization floor pass and a last four-hour pass, both of which are priceless tools for keeping dancers cheerful and awake during the 46 hours that dancers spend on their feet.

The SPSEA has two THON families, one of which they have had a relationship with for ten years. Their second family was assigned to them this year. Organization members enjoy communicating with the families and sending them care packages including cards, t-shirts, books, and more.

THON is not the organization’s only philanthropic effort. Members are also involved with the College of Education’s Cycle-thon, an event in April that raises money for the Summer College Opportunity in Education program. Service is a focal point for the organization, particularly service related to children.

“We are involved in the Second Mile Friends Program, and we have pen pals at an elementary school in Pittsburgh,” said Melfi. “We sent them two storybooks for their class and 200 pairs of winter gloves, and we just completed our annual Read Across America Day event at the Schlow Children’s Library downtown.”

For more information on SPSEA, contact Lori Melfi.


The Penn State College of Education serves approximately 2,800 undergraduate and 1,200 graduate students each year. The College prepares administrators, counselors, psychologists and researchers, as well as K-12 teachers in 21 different specialty areas. All of the College of Education graduate programs, that are ranked by the U.S. News & World Report, appear at least in the top 15, with six programs in the top ten.The College's Higher Education Administration program is ranked 1st and the Workforce Education and Development program is ranked 2nd. The College is known nationally for its education research and outreach, housing such centers as the Center for the Study of Higher Education, the Center for Science and the Schools, the Mid-Atlantic Center for Mathematics Teaching and Learning, and the Regional Education Laboratory--Mid-Atlantic.

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