Intern Post: THON 101

Penn State’s Dance Marathon, better known as THON, is just a few days away! This weekend, thousands of students will fill the Bryce Jordan Center to spend 46 hours on their feet in support of pediatric cancer research through the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey. THON weekend is the culmination of a year of fundraising that last year resulted in more than $13 million being raised, making the event the world’s largest student-run philanthropy.

Why would anyone want to spend 46 hours on their feet? How do they raise all that money? Social media intern Sophia breaks down the basics of THON on the Penn State Lion Life blog:

As Penn State students, we pride ourselves in a few things: our football team, our school spirit, having stellar academics and THON. For those who don’t know, THON is the largest student run philanthropy in the world that raises millions of dollars for kids with pediatric cancer every year and as of today, is only 10 days away! Intrigued to learn more? Then keep reading for a guide on how Penn State has, and continues, to change the lives of hundreds of kids.

The view from the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center during THON weekend.

The view from the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center during THON weekend.


What: The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, or more popularly known as THON, is a yearlong effort to raise funds for families that have been affected by pediatric cancer.

Why: THON was originally started by a group of students in 1973 that proposed the idea of a dance marathon to raise money for a needy cause. That year, 78 dancers danced for 30 hours and raised $2,000. Since then, THON has evolved into the longest dance marathon in the country, engages 15,000 students each year and has raised more than $101 million in hopes of conquering pediatric cancer.

The Bryce Jordan Center during THON weekend.

The Bryce Jordan Center during THON weekend.

When: After a year of raising money, Penn State students gather in the Bryce Jordan Center for one weekend in February to dance for 46 and to cap off the fundraising year. Yes, 46 hours straight. THON weekend begins at 6 p.m. Friday night and ends at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

How: To truly appreciate the life-changing experience of THON, it is best to understand the basics of how this extensive event is put on.

  • The Volunteers: Each year, 15,000 students volunteer to be the heart and soul of THON.
    • Executive Director: Just like the title sounds, the executive director is THON’s fearless leader who oversees the 15 committees and chooses the executive committee.
    • Executive Committee: For each of the 15 committees, there is one chairperson who chooses the Captains and reports back to the Executive Director.
    • Captains: Chosen by the Executive Committee, captains are in charge of committee members and assisting in the planning of THON weekend.
    • Committees: Chosen and lead by the captains, committee members make up 3,400 of the volunteers. A committee member can be involved in 1 of the 15 committees which include: Communications, Donor and Alumni Relations, Entertainment, Family Relations, Finance, Hospitality, Merchandise, Dancer Relations, Rules and Regulations Event Safety, Rules and Regulations Volunteers Safety, Special Events, Supply Logistics, and Technology.

      The THON Hospitality Committee during THON weekend.

      The THON Hospitality Committee during THON weekend.

    • Organizations (Orgs): To be an org your organization must be recognized by Penn State in order to participate in THON. Orgs range from Greek life to Commonwealth campuses to almost any club. Orgs are a great way to get involved with THON!
    • The Fundraising: Fundraising for THON is a long and rewarding process. These are just a few common ways you can help the fundraising effort:
    • Canning Weekends: Formally known as canister solicitation weekends, occur
      Students posting for a picture during a THON canning weekend.

      Sophia (left) during a THON canning weekend.

      over 3 weekends during the fall semester. THON volunteers travel near and far to stand outside stores and on sidewalks with specially marked cans to raise money for the cure.

    • ThONvelopes: Sending THONvelopes is one of the easiest ways to raise money. Just like the name says, family and friends receive envelopes explaining the cause and can easily send them back with their donations.
    • Alternative Fundraising: If you have ever taken a stroll through the HUB and saw and organization selling an item and giving the profits to THON, you have seen an alternative fundraiser. It is any fundraiser that is not canning, corporate, mail, online or pledge solicitation. They can be as fun and creative as you want!

Of course, this is just the break down of the bare minimum of THON. For more information, to learn how to make a donation and to watch the 46-hour live stream during THON weekend visit


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