New generations continue the fight against childhood cancer 
by Emma Saltzman

By Allison Brady, Ella Cressler, and Nick King

Since the first THON™ in 1973, there have been thousands of students who have danced in the 46-hour dance marathon. Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with two Alumni who danced way back in the 1990s and hear about the impact it left on their lives.  

To set the scene, let’s take it back to 1993. The theme was “For All the Right Reasons” and THON took place in the White Building, lasting 48 hours. Dan and Leslie Lill (nee Israel) were seniors at Penn State.

Senior year…the last chance to make all those special memories with the amazing people you’ve met throughout your time in college. Well, Dan and Leslie decided to just do that by dancing together in THON as an Independent Dancer Couple, but also as an actual couple.  

When reflecting on what it meant to dance in THON, the couple said, “It meant so much to us! It was one of the proudest achievements in our lives. To be a part of something so meaningful and helpful is overwhelming. It was a true honor, and we feel so fortunate that we were given that amazing opportunity.”  

Little did Dan and Leslie know this at the time, but this wouldn’t be the last time the two of them would be making memories together at THON.  

Fast forward 30 years, and now they have two children attending Penn State. Andrew, a junior studying marketing is a part of THON as a Donor and Alumni Relations Committee Member, and Jordan, a sophomore studying Biobehavioral Health was a Dancer Relations Committee Member for THON 2023. Through their children being involved in THON, the Lills have gotten to see how THON has evolved since their time at Penn State.  

When asked how they think THON has changed for the better, Dan said, “THON has changed for the better by embracing new ways to reach the network of Donors for support. Many of the old ways of fundraising are no longer the way they were so it’s necessary to capture dollars through other means. It must be working given the results this past year during tighter economic times. We’ll need to continue to be creative to get the outreach for years to come in order to keep raising the bar.” 

Like most who are a part of THON in some way, the Lills’ favorite part of the weekend is Total Reveal at the end.  

Recalling her favorite part of THON Weekend 1993, Leslie said, “It would have to be at the end of the 48 hours when they announced the total that we had raised. To know that what we had just done would result in over a million dollars being raised for the Four Diamonds Fund* to help the kids was so amazing and emotional.”  

Dan and Leslie are both looking forward to Total Reveal again this year whether they attend in person or online. 

The Lills are an excellent example of THON not just being something you do for a weekend in February, but instead something that stays with you for life. 

*Now referred to as Four Diamonds