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Students Participate in THON

news article about College of Education students who participated in THON 2008

By Suzanne Wayne (March 2008)

It is difficult to explain the Penn State Dance Marathon, or THON, to anyone who has never seen it. The event itself has the feel of a carnival. The Bryce Jordan Center floor is awash in color. Beach balls are constantly in motion as dancers and visitors volley them around the floor.  Once every hour, the dancers perform the line dance, and supporters in the stands dance with them. The view is almost surreal, as hundreds of arms and hands move in perfect unison together. 

But this weekend-long party is just the culmination of a year’s work. Thousands of students across the Penn State system have worked and planned for this event, and the results are impressive. This year, THON earned $6.6 million.

THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Over its 36-year history, participants have raised millions of dollars for charity, with the majority going to the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Children’s Hospital. The funds sponsor research for cancer cures and provide needed relief funds for families of children with cancer or “THON families.”

Many Penn State students and alumni consider THON to be a quintessential part of Penn State, and what is most impressive about the event is the fact that it is planned and executed completely by students. These students are focused, dedicated, and truly inspired to work hard “For the Kids,” which is the motto of THON.

renaut.jpgMore than 3,700 Penn State students from throughout the system contributed to the 2008 event in some way. Some students danced, which means that they stood for 46-hours straight. Many others provided security, or organized performances, games, and other morale-boosting activities for the dancers. For weeks and months before the event, students spent hours raising money, meeting with “THON Families,” and going on “canning” weekends, which is when students spend a weekend standing in front of a store to collect donations in support of THON from store visitors and passerbys.

The College of Education was well represented at THON this year.  Students participated as dancers, served on various THON committees, and visited the event to show their support for their fellow students.

Heather Detwiler, a sophomore, Samantha Gould, a junior, Catherine Kennerknecht, a junior, and Allison Renaut, a senior, all in Elementary and Kindergarten Education, represented the State Pennsylvania Student Education Association, which earned $7,492 for THON 2008. Heather and Allison worked together as co-chairs of the SPSEA THON committee this year.

detwiler.jpgHeather has been involved in THON since her freshman year, and she was inspired to get involved to help the kids affected by cancer. “Basically it is for the kids. All the work, the raising money, and meeting with others is to support the kids and help their families to pay the bills,” she shared.

This was Allison’s second year as a dancer in THON, so she knew how physically demanding it is to stay on your feet for 46 hours straight. Allison is finishing her student teaching at Ferguson Township Elementary in State College, Pa. She took off the Monday after the weekend to recover, but was back in the classroom on Tuesday.

“I remember talking with someone after THON last year. They asked how I felt, and I thought ‘I could do another THON two days from now if they had one.’  The hard work all year, the fatigue, all those emotions, it is all worth it,” Allison said. 

Heather recognizes how her involvement in THON will aid her in her future career. “I have gained leadership, organization, and personal communication skills. You have to be very professional as you work with other members and ask the general public and corporations for donations.”
 
The dedication of THON students inspires many. Across Pennsylvania, “mini THONS” have sprung up in elementary, junior highs, and high schools, many organized by education alumni or student teachers who have taken the THON tradition to their new schools.