Monday, February 21, 2011


 THON ended at 8:00 this morning (it is 8:20 PM Monday in Sydney but only 4:20 AM on the East Coast).  I watched the streaming download via computer intermittently throughout the weekend.  WOW!  That was the first word out of my mouth during “The Reveal” at 8:30 AM Sydney time. This year THON (AKA The Penn State Dance Marathon) raised $9,563,016.09, just under 2 million more than last year.  Would have loved to have been in the BJC (Bryce Jordan Center)  to hear the screaming when that last card with “9” came into view. 

What is THON?  Many things.  The largest student-run philanthropy in the world (involving 15,000 students), the longest college dance marathon in the country (46 hours), the oldest continuous one as well.  It benefits pediatric cancer research at Penn State Hershey Medical Center through the Four Diamonds Fund.  Its motto is FTK: For The Kids.

The Four Diamonds Fund is one of the most amazing organizations I’ve heard about.  Once a kid with cancer gets hooked up with the Four Diamonds Fund everything is taken care of.  Parents need a place to stay?  Check.  New tires to make the trip to Hershey?  Check.  Help with medications?  Check.  And money is donated to research as well. 

Prior to THON students raise money through a process known as “canning” when they stand outdoors collecting money on street corners and on roads.  I am very much a curmudgeon when it comes to little league baseball teams standing at busy intersections raising money from motorists stopped at traffic lights.  However, if I am in PA during a canning weekend there is nothing better than tossing in the donation live and in person. 

Once the kids begin dancing at 6:00 PM Friday afternoon they are not allowed to sit or lay down until THON ends at 4:00 PM Sunday.  There are morale boosters, slides coated with baby powder for sore feet, line dances, water pistol fights with the kids and their families (major Four Diamond Family presence throughout THON).  Yesterday I happened to catch the athletic teams doing dance routines to music from five decades of rock.  Amazing. 

By the time the final total was announced the BJC was packed to the rafters and approximately 9000 were on-line watching. 

With the exception of the Jesuit Arca during Lent THON is the only charity to which I donate annually.  United Fund?  Not on your life, or that of the unborn.

My only regret is that I’ve never been to the BJC during THON weekend  which is always the third weekend of February.  THON, which began very small in 1973, did not exist when I was a student.  My niece Kate, class of ’81, danced in one of the early ones.  She still describes the mix of exhilaration and delirium after being on her feet dancing for 48 hours.  I can imagine doing it and, during internship at Geisinger in 1978, did in fact spend many weekends from 8 AM Saturday to sometime Monday afternoon on-call.  OK, we got to sit down to write orders. 

For more detail see this link to Wikipedia which already has the 2011 total.
It is sad that while television networks pollute viewers’ brains with crap like Jersey Shore and the other forms of unreality TV, no one has thought to pick this up.  This is a lot better entertainment than watching those trashy broads (the only appropriate word for them) on the Real Housewives of Name-The-City.  No comment on the Kardashian family. 

When alumni give the standard greeting:  WE ARE . . . .
it is with the pride of knowing that THON exists at

. . . . PENN STATE

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