Written by: Dana Reed, Colin Cross, & Kelsea Harshbarger
THON™, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, is primarily known for its 46-hour annual dance marathon, but it is so much more than that. Founded in 1973, THON aims to provide support for those who are impacted by childhood cancer. In 1977, Four Diamonds became THON’s sole beneficiary. Four Diamonds is a non-profit organization that provides financial support for children and families suffering from childhood cancer. Through this partnership, THON has raised over $200 million dollars for those families.
In addition to the iconic 46-hour dance marathon, THON also carries out countless fundraising initiatives throughout the year, including the THON 5K powered by PNC, 100 Days ‘Til THON, and Giving Tuesday. All of these efforts ultimately culminate in the 46-hour event where the annual fundraising total is announced.
In order to make THON Weekend and all of the other events a reality, thousands of THON Volunteers work together to ensure the success of each event. More specifically, THON consists of many individuals across various titles and positions. To start, the Executive Director oversees the Executive Committee, which consists of 16 Directors who supervise their respective Committee. The Captains report to their corresponding Director. Below the Captains fall the Committee members. There are over a dozen different types of committees that volunteers can be a part of, allowing them to specialize in a certain aspect of THON. Some of these Committees include Public Relations, Dancer Relations, Merchandise, and many more. Without the dedication of all THON Volunteers, THON would not be all that it is today.
Furthermore, THON’s ultimate goal is to support the children and families who are impacted by childhood cancer. THON even has its own mission statement that outlines the commitment of all THON Volunteers. This mission statement is held at the center of all things related to THON. The mission statement is so important to every THON Volunteer, as it represents the essence and overarching goal of the student-run philanthropy.
In fact, Lauren Paul, a Dancer Relations Committee Member, shares that “every meeting, [they] say THON’s Mission Statement as a group,” which “allows [them] to remember why [they] THON.” Making the THON Mission Statement a priority during each meeting goes to show just how important it is that THON Volunteers always keep their mission and commitment in mind.
Another essential aspect of THON is learning about all of the families that are being supported by THON’s efforts. Paul explains that “[they] take time every meeting to learn about a Four Diamonds family and have the opportunity to share [their] thoughts with the family.” These Family Education Programs allow THON Volunteers to hear more about the families that they are supporting through all the amazing work that they do, and it provides a special opportunity for the volunteers to interact with the families.
Overall, THON is such a special tradition that unites everyone at Penn State. From the first THON held in Penn State’s Hub Ballroom up until the heavily anticipated THON Weekend 2024, THON has grown immensely. This would not have been possible without the dedication of all of the THON Volunteers and everyone else who shows support for THON’s wonderful cause.
Cover photo credit to: Jacob Sparages