By Karly Moll > Sophomore > Journalism > University of Maryland
So you think you can dance? Students at Penn State University definitely can, having raised the bar for philanthropy fundraisers on college campuses with their yearly THON event. This years 48-hour THON, short for Dance Marathon, took place over the weekend and the students raised an astonishing 9.5 million dollars for the fight against pediatric cancer.
Since 1973, the University has been working with several organizations to raise money for pediatric cancer patients, making their even the largest student-run philanthropy in America, according to the THON website.
“Its FTK! [for the kids],” says Melissa Spechler, 19, a sophomore at PSU. The entire campus gets involved: sororities and fraternities pair together to raise money, and countless clubs and committees ranging from the Penn State Glee Club to the Accounting Society equally devote themselves to the cause, according to Spechler.
Students who are involved in THON dedicate a minimum of four weekends to canning, when they stay overnight in a different state and wake up at the crack of dawn to stand in front of bagel shops, grocery stores, and shopping malls holding cans and signs to raise money for THON, says Jenna Hirsch, 19, a sophomore and member of Sigma Delta Tau at PSU.
“The best part about THON is that everyone is involved. It is a way for the whole campus to connect, it’s something everyone can talk about and relate to, no matter who they are or where they are from, which is what makes our campus so unique,” says Carly Furino, 20, a sophomore at PSU.
A distinctive aspect of THON is that most organizations are assigned to a specific family to raise money for, giving the students an incentive and true inspiration to participate. The motivation of students is often driven by the goal of the family that they are working for, says Jordan Burt, 20, a sophomore at PSU. Oftentimes, the students will host a barbeque or some sort of meet and greet to get to know them, making the cause that much more meaningful.
Penn State’s unique philanthropy program has inspired other college campuses across the country. Students at Rutgers, UCLA, University of Maryland, UNC, to name a few, have organized programs designed based on THON at Penn State. Visit the website (http:///www.thon.org) to learn more about this impressive and engaging philanthropic event.