A recipe for success: mix one part supreme leader, one part amazing motivator, six parts energetic dancers, and many parts enthusiastic and committed Earth and Mineral Science (EMS) students and you get a record $85,900 raised for Penn State’s IFC/Panhellenic Dance MaraTHON.
Simone Gleicher, a senior meteorology student, used her leadership talents for the second year in a row as the overall chair of the EMS Dance Marathon (THON) committee to help EMS earn first place among general organizations in fund raising for THON 2011. “I never danced and I probably never will,” she said, as she explained how the dancers are an important part of the event, but “lots of students are responsible for increasing the success of EMS THON. Every student who went canning, made THONvelopes, worked pizza sales, participated in fundraisers, or communicated with their friends and family about THON made this possible,” she said. Her ability to easily share the spotlight may be because she is a triplet. “I had to come to college before I even had my very own birthday cake,” she said laughingly. She’s quick to point out the talents of many members of the EMS team.
“Greg Ferro, another senior meteorology student, is the overall canning chair, and he’s a master at motivation,” she said. He spent hours putting together the canning trips coordinating the overnight accommodations, pairing new EMS THON recruits with older, experienced ones, and ensuring that students raised money safely, and also enjoyed themselves. After each trip, he put together a slide show highlighting the canning experience that reinforced the message of the mission of THON: to conquer pediatric cancer.
This year EMS had six dancers, up from four in 2010. The number of dancers an organization has is determined by how much the organization raised the previous year, and because EMS raised $55,035 last year, they gained two slots for 2011. The six dancers were Laura Schell (materials science and engineering), Christine Hardos (geography), Lauren Kohl (energy, business, and finance), Ryan Leddy (meteorology), Glenn DeAngelis (energy engineering), and Dan Vecellio (meteorology).
Throughout the year, EMS students interact with the families they are paired with through the Adopt-A-Family program. This year, the Michael Woods and Troy Brewer families were assigned to EMS. Michael is ten years old, and his cancer is in remission; however, Troy passed away in 2006. The relationships the students have with the families inspire them. Students commented that whenever they felt overwhelmed with academic and fund-raising commitments, they reminded themselves of the children battling cancer, and they realized their own challenges were small in comparison.
The connection to the families who have or are experiencing pediatric cancer is also felt intensely during Family Hour which takes place on Sunday of THON weekend. It includes a slideshow of cancer survivors, family speakers, and the “Celebration of Life,” which commemorates those who have died. “Family Hour should be a graduation requirement,” said Dan Vecellio. “I believe everyone should experience that number of people coming together for one cause. It puts everything into perspective.”
THON began in 1973 when 39 couples danced for 30 hours in Penn State’s HUB ballroom. Now it’s a 46-hour, no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon with a yearlong fund raising effort of more than 15,000 students raising a record $9,563,016.09 for the Four Diamonds Fund. EMS students are pleased to be the top general organization for money raised, but it’s all because they kept the focus of the overall event: for the kids, or FTK, they say.