LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus students raised a remarkable $101,965.89 for the 51st annual Penn State Dance Marathon, better known as THON, to conquer pediatric cancer.
Largest Student-Run Philanthropy in the World
THON is the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. For 46 hours straight, over 15,000 Penn State students from across the commonwealth dance and fundraise to support the fight against pediatric cancer. This event is held annually at the Bryce Jordan Center at University Park and has become a staple of Penn State culture, raising millions of dollars for the Four Diamonds Foundation at Penn State Health Children's Hospital.
Chad Long, director of Student Affairs and THON adviser at Penn State Fayette, explained that the Four Diamonds Foundation provides comprehensive support to families during their time of need. "From taking care of the medical bills to paying for hotel rooms so families can stay with their children at the hospital, and even things like therapy and counseling, the Four Diamonds Foundation helps out the entire family in their time of need," he said.
According to Long, hearing the families speak over the weekend is a powerful reminder of the impact that this support has on their lives. "While it's a friendly competition to see who has raised the most, at the end of the day, it's all about the kids and it's a beautiful celebration of life," he added. "Every single person behind the scenes like the chair, the captains, the team members, and the dancers is a piece of this puzzle. And without one piece, it wouldn't work."
The Fayette THON Team has once again demonstrated its unwavering commitment to the cause, setting an outstanding example for the entire commonwealth. This year, their team raised a remarkable $101,965.89 in donations. With a cumulative amount of $1,617,049.68 raised since the team’s inception in 1998, these students have dedicated themselves to funding pediatric cancer research and care.
Hayley White, captain of the Fayette THON team, stated that although their team may be small, it’s composed of passionate, hardworking, and selfless individuals. She added, “Without each team member — past, present, and future — we wouldn’t be as successful. There’s a reason we call ourselves the ‘Fayette Family.’”
Reflecting on the Dance Marathon
Being a THON dancer is a memorable experience that is both physically and emotionally challenging. Participants remain on their feet for the entire duration of the event, testing their physical endurance as they fundraise and raise awareness in the battle against pediatric cancer. However, the experience is also incredibly fulfilling, as dancers can see the impact of their work firsthand, meeting and connecting with the children and families who directly benefit from THON's fundraising efforts.
According to Maria Catalina, a third-year student and dancer, being a THON participant is an "emotional roller-coaster in the best way possible." She added, "It’s easy to get lost in the bright lights and colorful shows over the weekend, but listening to the family stories reminds everyone why we’re here. My heart breaks and soars at the same time because we see these families up close. Some of them are triumphant while others have lost children to cancer. But we keep dancing because they know that we’re still thinking about them — they’ll always be a part of our community."
Throughout the weekend, dancers receive letters from family, friends, and even those affected by pediatric cancer. Roger Myers Jr., a third-year student and dancer, shared, "We received letters from patients at the Hershey Medical Center. It’s emotional reading their words written in crayon, thanking us for helping with their treatment. THON makes a difference in people’s lives."
Maximus Nassar, a second-year student and dancer, highlighted the challenge of dancing for the second time, but also the gratification of personally experiencing the Fayette dancers' exceptional performance. He shared, "The grand reveal is worth all the pain that comes with the weekend. We see the culmination of our labor, all of which go to a cause that means something to hundreds of thousands of people."
Lauren Nedrow, a first-year student and dancer, summed up her THON weekend experience as "truly indescribable." She added, "I’m very proud to have participated in something that helps so many people — and I’m just as proud of our team for all the effort that everyone put in. I can’t wait for the years to come!"
"Having danced at THON for three consecutive years, I have realized that no matter how many times I attend, THON always maintains its magical charm. It provides a unique opportunity to witness things that cannot be experienced anywhere else," stated Josh Krause, a third-year student and dancer.
"You have to go to THON to see the full impact of the hard work that every volunteer does. Dancing was one of the hardest things I've done, but also the most rewarding," said Jacob Mariotti, third-year student and dancer. "I'm so grateful that I was able to be part of the Fayette team and raise almost $102,000 for the kids."