Throwback Thursday - Penn State Dance Marathon

This may or may not be a bit of a public service announcement, but I wanted to take some time to talk about one of my most monumental life experiences to date and a cause that’s very near and dear to my heart.

Some of you may know this, but every year, Penn State hosts the largest student-run philanthropy in the country, the Penn State Dance Marathon, or THON for short. For 46 hours, hundreds of Penn State students stand and “dance” in support of the fight against pediatric cancer; campus organizations, clubs and greek life work together throughout the year to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund and the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. This excerpt from explains the mission of THON pretty well:

“Childhood cancers are the #1 disease killer of children in the U.S. - more than asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined. Cancer can affect anyone, regardless of ethnic group, socioeconomic class, or geographic region. Although today, up to 75% of the children with cancer can be cured, certain forms of childhood cancer have proven to be so resistant to treatment that, in spite of research, a cure is still elusive, and 2,300 children and teens will die from cancer this year. Through THON's vast yearlong fundraising efforts and awareness promotion, we hope to one day find a cure for childhood cancer.

Since 1977, THON has raised more than $114 million benefiting Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Four Diamonds picks up where insurance leaves off, enabling families to solely focus on care for their child. Assistance from Four Diamonds ensures counselors, social workers, music therapists and other specialists are available to provide comprehensive care in a family-focused atmosphere. Thanks to THON, Four Diamonds and the Penn State Hershey Medical Center recruits world-class talent to continue innovative research benefiting children worldwide.”

Throughout my time at Penn State, I was lucky enough to participate in THON some way every year. My organization, the Lionettes Dance Team, was also blessed with having our very own THON child, Ashley Fazekas (as of a few years ago, she is cancer free!)

Me with Ashley at THON 2010

My involvement in THON culminated in my senior year, when I was granted the incredible opportunity to represent the Lionettes and “dance” with three of my teammates and best friends, standing for 46 hours in the fight against pediatric cancer and continuing in this great Penn State philanthropic tradition (and as both my parents did in 1981!)

Rocking my Steelers cape with my best friends at THON 2011

There are really no words to describe THON and the experience of dancing with your sisters, but there are absolutely no words to describe the joy and pride you feel when the THON Captains and “Overalls” reveal the grand total raised each year at the end of each THON weekend. Last year, THON raised a record-breaking $13.34 million-- incredible. Even in the years since I’ve graduated, I always tune into the live webcast for the last few hours (and inevitably cry every time). One of the best ways I can sum up what THON means to me, is with the following quote:

Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.”

Helen Keller said that, and she was incredibly spot-on. Together we can accomplish anything. THON kicks off tomorrow, March 20, at 6pm ET. Join the fight against pediatric cancer and donate to THON today!

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