THON™ 5K Presented by PNC
Written by Jordan Corley
Content curation by promotions committee members
Penn State campus erupted in laughter, cheers and smiles on Sunday, Oct. 13 as THON™ volunteers, Four Diamond Families, students and community members came together in support of THON™ 5K Presented by PNC participants for their run across campus.
All runner registration fees went directly to Four Diamonds at the Penn State Children’s Hospital. The money will go towards funding 100% of the patient care cost and fund life-saving research.
The THON 5K Presented by PNC is the first of many events in the THON year to rally such a large group of passionate people and bring them together in support of THON’s message.
“[The THON 5K Presented by PNC] brings a start to the THON fundraising year,” gift entry captain Ben Clinker said. “This is the first true event that we have in THON where all the committees are selected, and everyone comes together to support this common cause. It’s an exciting way to go throughout campus to see the runners and enjoy time with the families.”
This year marked the 19th annual presentation of the THON 5K by PNC, supporting the yearlong efforts of THON to raise funds and awareness of childhood cancer.
Ryan Bowman, an OPP captain described the event as “an opportunity for Four Diamonds families and organizations to get to know each other and have a fun day.”
He said the event brings the community together and this year he is especially excited to see the morning unite his fellow committee members.
Caela Camazine, a senior THON Nation Captain, said she loves seeing how passionate alumni remain towards supporting THON and likened the experience to the creation of a lifelong family of support.
The annual event provides a variety of opportunities for volunteers and community members to show their support for THON, eliciting excitement from participants for all aspects of the morning.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to really put my own blood, sweat, and tears into THON and make a difference,” Michaels, a Penn State student said.
The Kids Run, a shorter run around campus for children to partake in with their paired organizations is another highly anticipated activity of the event, providing the perfect opportunity for organization members to bond with the children.
“I can’t wait for the Kids Run because the kids are excited to be here, which makes me super excited, and it’s just great to see everyone happy and having a good time,” Macie Plotkin, a Penn State student said.
Running towards a cure
Attendees welcomed Four Diamonds Families with open arms into the space, creating a warm environment to celebrate the children and families able to attend.
“THON means everything to my family because we are a Four Diamonds family,” Cindy Crimmel, a Four Diamonds Family attending her first THON 5K Presented by PNC said.
Bereaved THON family Jeff and Tammy Zeigler have been attending the event since 2009 after their daughter passed away. The Zeigler family said the event is the perfect excuse to visit their paired organizations, AGR and OPHIA and to dress up their four dogs.
The Zeigler dogs, Noodles, Rebel, Peanuts and JJ all wore a handcrafted cape to represent the power rangers, each designed and stitched by Tammy.
Participants came in a variety of outfits, embracing the fun nature of the event and playful atmosphere with bright colors, costumes and accessories as they ran in the 5K and interacted with children.
Two participants formerly in the fraternity Alpha Rho Chi dressed up in costume, one as a hot dog and the other as Olaf from the movie Frozen. The former students said they love coming back to campus and felt the THON 5K Presented by PNC provided the perfect opportunity to come back and show their support for THON and their fraternity.
“[We] enjoy everyone’s community here,” Olaf said. “It’s a pretty cool event.”
They said they decided to dress up in spirit of Halloween and to stay warm on the brisk Sunday morning.
Krista and her friends could be seen wearing pom pom headbands and tutus inspired by Krista’s best friend and cancer survivor.
“It’s all her idea,” Krista said. “She wants to go all out.”
Another student, Dan Truong, dressed as the Flash was in attendance for the third year in a row. Truong said he was given the opportunity to run in the 5K three years ago and ever since he has been attending as the Flash.
“The kids who love The Flash and also love superheroes, in general— I do this for them,” Truong said. “It makes them happy. It gives them hope for a better tomorrow.”
The morning even saw a magician in the crowd.
Florian Passelaigue, a magic performer, came to the event in support of THON and with the hopes of furthering his chance of perform during THON weekend.
“I just like to bring a spark to the eyes of the kids,” Passelaigue said. “That’s what I do. That’s why I perform magic.”
A family affair
The morning welcomed the families of many participants and THON volunteers as well, some parents even joining in the run with their children.
One mother of a student running for her business fraternity decided to run in the 5K despite her lack of running outside of the event. The mother, a Penn State alum, said she wanted to show her support for THON in any way she could, even if it meant adorning her worn out sneakers and running along the sidewalks of State College with her daughter.
The mother remarked on the incredible progress THON has made since her time at Penn State; the organizations size growing significantly since her involvement with the philanthropy.
Another mother and Penn State alum attended the 5K for the first time this year, bringing her son with her to run in the race together. The mother said the company she works for was one of the sponsors of the event and she was excited for the opportunity to support THON again.
This was the first time Gallo participated in the THON 5K Presented by PNC, however, he said he walks his dogs around the stadium often.
Allen Gallo, father of THON Communications director Olivia Gallo, attended the event with his four puppies, Cooper, Lily, Nellie and Bear. Gallo walked with his daughter and the communications committee during the 5K, handing the leashes to THON alumni volunteers to watch over the dogs.
Students supporting THON
All throughout the morning THON volunteers and clubs with THON families could be seen playing with the children; from tag to hopscotch students barely had time to catch their breath between excited children jumping from one activity to the next.
For senior and Community Outreach Captain Anisha Jobanputra, this was her fourth time attending the event.
“I volunteer at the THON 5K [Presented by PNC] because it is a really great opportunity for the kids to just have fun and do the fun run,” Jobanputra said. “Also, [it’s important] for the parents to show [the kids] how much they are willing to fight for them by running the 5K, and just to see how much passion everyone has for this organization.
For other THON volunteers, like sophomore and entertainment committee member Dee Jay, this was his first experience at the THON 5K Presented by PNC. Jay’s role was to engage the crowd and raise excitement for the event.
As a THON committee member, he said he is most excited “to see what goes on behind the scenes and planning the whole THON weekend.”
Penn State clubs also made an appearance, some performing throughout the morning and others attending to show their support for THON.
Zachary Gold, a senior in club gymnastics attended the event with club gymnastics and performed a routine with the group early in the morning.
“I am not from Pennsylvania, so THON was something I knew nothing about growing up but getting here and being involved I have really fallen in love with everything,” Gold said. “Especially taking care of our kids and families, and it is just a great time to bring everyone together and be happy.”
Another organization in attendance was the Lionettes, members both performing for attendees and running in the 5K.
“We are involved in many different ways, usually we perform at a lot of [THON] events,” Ariana Ibelli, a junior in the Lionettes said. “We are also considered an organization, so we fundraise for THON and we have two THON families.”
And of course, students, volunteers, family members and community participants gathered underneath the blue and white balloon arches promptly at 11:00 a.m. in anticipation for the beginning of the run.
“I am most looking forward to running the 5K and then seeing our THON families after,” Bridget Foresman, a junior participating in the THON 5K Presented by PNC for the first time said. “I just like the idea that we are all working together and how we are a huge school uniting towards one cause.”
Peter Michaels, THON Chair of the Business and Society House, said he has been involved with THON since his freshman year at Penn State.
“As a freshman, the first thing I wanted to get involved with is THON,” Michaels said. “It’s such a great chance to impact so many people’s lives, and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way here at Penn State.”