By Kelly Taylor
THON™ is a Penn State tradition that many students work yearlong to make happen. THON has been around since 1973 and in total has raised over $180 million for the fight against childhood cancer. In the time leading up to and during THON Weekend, there are many traditions that make the year and weekend special.
To kick start each new THON Year, specialized committees are formed. There are 16 THON Committees that run all THON Events and behind the scenes operations. Committee Members are led by Captains, and Captains are led by Directors—all of which are Penn State students. One tradition for Committees is to come up with a Committee Name. It is usually a play on the Captain’s Name.
Committee’s run all the major events leading up to and during THON Weekend. The Merchandise Committee runs the THON Store, in the HUB and online, selling THON Merchandise throughout the year. The THON Store has been around since 2015 and works to spread THON’s Mission by raising money and selling THON swag!
Another tradition is every year, THON has a different theme. Students work around the clock to come up with a logo and theme for the year. This theme is historically revealed during homecoming week. The THON logo is traditionally revealed during the Family Carnival. The logo is chosen by a design competition between Penn State graphic design students.
Penn State students are at the heart of THON and work year-round to raise money For The Kids®! Different campaigns such as #CancerCannot, Dream Forward, and I THON for are ways for students to express why they are passionate about this cause.
A tradition that never gets old is the Line Dance! Dancer Relations Captains are in charge of making a new Line Dance every year that people gets to enjoy all weekend long. The Line Dance has been around for over 40 years. It incorporates pop culture references and popular songs from the year leading up to THON. The Line Dance is played every hour at different times throughout the weekend.
Next is the Pep Rally! The Pep Rally is an exciting event that takes place from 7-8pm Saturday of THON Weekend and is sponsored by the Alumni Association. It showcases acts from many different sports teams like football, swimming, wrestling, and gymnastics. The entire Bryce Jordan Center (BJC) becomes a whiteout event because each student is given a white t-shirt. This event hypes up the crowd, and then the winner is chosen through the cheers of the crowd.
The Talent Show is another event during THON weekend that keeps the crowd fueled with energy. The Talent Show spotlights different acts like singing, dancing, and comedy acts.
Dancers fill the floor of the BJC and students from different Organizations fill the stands. These Organizations consist of Greek Life, Special Interest Organizations, Sports Teams, and Spectators. The Orgs often pick a theme and decorate their cardboard cutout letters and symbols with it. The BJC is draped with colorful signs and symbols.
Finally, the Final Four hours are the traditional finale of THON Weekend and are filled with emotion and love. Everyone involved with THON stands together to celebrate all the children fighting every day and to celebrate the lives of our beautiful Angels. Four Diamonds families tell their stories of the trials and tribulations they face. The THON Weekend Recap Video, created by Public Relations Production Captains, consists of video clips throughout the weekend and is played for the audience at the end of the Final Four. After the dancers finally sit down the fundraising total is revealed in celebration!
Although THON may look different this year, these traditions and missions will never waver. THON and the students remain steadfast in their mission to provide emotional and financial support to all the Kids, Teens, Angels, and Families!