The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, commonly referred to as THON, is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. The mission of THON is to conquer pediatric cancer by providing outstanding emotional and financial support to the children, families, researchers and staff of the Four Diamonds Fund. The first THON was held in 1973 and since then THON has grown to include over 15,000 volunteers and 700 dancers, and raised more than $69 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Hershey Children’s Hospital. Thousands of students come together each year, as they say, “For The Kids” (FTK).
THON 2011 broke the record for most money raised in a single year with its breath-taking total of $9,563,016.09.
The Four Diamonds Fund
Since 1977, THON has been paired with the Four Diamonds Fund at Hershey Children’s Hospital. The fund was created by Charles Millard who was diagnosed with cancer at age 11. Before losing his battle at 14, he wrote a story about a knight that had to attain the four diamonds of Courage, Honestly, Strength and Wisdom in order to escape an evil sorceress. Symbolically, these four diamonds represent what Millard believed was needed to overcome childhood cancer. These four diamonds are an iconic sign for the Four Diamonds Fund and THON.
The Four Diamonds Fund donates money to families who are fighting childhood cancer. It offsets the costs of treatment, travel, and other expenses for children who are battling cancer and is not covered by insurance. Money also goes towards cancer research and medical team support. In addition to the financial support provided by the Four Diamonds Fund, the fund also helps provide families with emotional and medical support at Hershey Children’s Hospital.
The THON fundraising window runs from the beginning of October until THON weekend in February. During this time period, Penn State clubs and organizations, and independent students dedicate their time to raising money for the Four Diamonds Fund. Some of the most common types of fundraising methods done by students and the THON organization are canning, THONvelopes, corporate outreach, THON store, and most recently, THONline.
THON designated four “canning” weekends per year. During these weekends, students travel to all areas of Pennsylvania and surrounding states to raise money by canning. Canning is canner solicitation in which students stand on sidewalks at intersections with cans and ask for change or dollar donations from passing cars. One canner can raise up to several hundred dollars a day.
Letter writing through THONvelopes allows students to ask friends and families for personal donations to THON. These letters include detailed information about THON and the Four Diamonds Fund and encourages receivers to donate in the name of the individual or organization that sent the letter. Receivers are given an envelope in which they can mail their donation back to Penn State.
In addition to writing letters to individuals, organizations and THON contact small businesses and corporations to ask for company donations to the cause. THON has outreached to thousands of businesses and attained monetary donations as well as sponsorships from local and national brands.
THON also has a merchandising sector that supports its fundraising efforts. THON apparel such as t-shirts, sweat pants, sweat shirts and hats are sold to students, alumni, and interested individuals. THON also sells personal items such as jewelry, key chains, etc. All the profits are donated to THON.
Most recently, THON has reached individuals and businesses through their THONline fundraising efforts. Now anyone can go to THON.org and donate online to the cause. THON has seen initial growth in this new fundraising tactic and is optimistic for the future.
While these are some of the major fundraising efforts employed by THON, this list is not exhaustive. Organizations and students hold hundreds of events each year that contribute to the THON effort.
THON’s year-long fundraising efforts for the Four Diamonds Fund culminates into a 46-hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon in February of every year. Seven hundred students are chosen to participate in this marathon and literally take a stand for the cause as they dance from Friday to Sunday. Since 2007, THON weekend has be housed in Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center. Thousands of volunteers come together to create an inspiring weekend for the 700 dancers but also for all the Four Diamonds Families that travel to State College for the big event each year. Entertainment, food, games and lots of energy from all those involved encourage the dancers to push through their tiredness and pain.
Although the weekend focuses a lot on the dancers, THON weekend is just as much about the families. Penn State clubs and organizations are matched up with Four Diamond Families and build lasting relationships that continue for years. THON weekend, these organizations spend time playing with the kids, laughing with the parents and showing the families a fun and uplifting experience. Water gun fights, blowing bubble and playing catch as common. THON children can participate in things such as the kids’ fashion show, the kids’ talent show, no grownups allowed room and shadowing overall committee members.
One of the most touching times of THON weekend is what is called “Family Hour.” Past and current Four Diamonds Families take the time to speak about their experience with pediatric cancer and how THON and the Four Diamonds Fund have affected their lives. In the end, THON weekend’s message is the same: Penn State students will not sit until pediatric cancer is cured.
Each committee is made up of an overall, captains and committee members. These committees are what helps to run THON weekend as well as THON efforts year-round.
Rules and Regulations