Psus Thon Raises A Record 133 Million

02.24.14 | Bob Price

Over three days of nonstop movement, Penn Staters turned the Bryce Jordan Center, typically a basketball venue, into what one student called "the biggest celebration of life you can possibly have."

"I think this is the epitome of how to live your life," senior Emma Gregory said of THON, Penn State's annual 46-hour dance marathon to raise money for pediatric cancer.

In its 42nd year, THON raised a record $13.34 million, up from last year's tally of $12,374,034.46.

The dance marathon is the culmination of a yearlong fund-raising effort by Penn State organizations and individual students. More than 700 people were selected to be dancers. They stood up at 6 p.m. Friday, and could not sit - let alone sleep - until 4 p.m. Sunday.

Revealing the time of day to these dancers is strictly forbidden, said Gregory, a ranking member on THON's Public Relations Committee. As THON inched closer to its close, many dancers were feeling the effects of sleep deprivation and fatigue.

"It's kind of a weird feeling," said Colin Crawford, a junior still dancing strong for his fraternity at 3 a.m. Sunday. "I've already done this two years in a row - not dancing, but I stayed up for the 46 in a row. Right now, I'm kind of in a dreamy phase. It goes up and down."

Each dancer is assigned a student known as a "moraler," whose job is to monitor their partner's physical and mental state. They encourage the dancers to stay moving and participate in ongoing THON activities.

The rest of the Bryce Jordan Center's energy derives from its near-constant capacity crowd of 16,000. Students, often decked in wacky high socks and T-shirts, can wait in line outside the arena for hours at a time, and then stay in the bleachers for many hours more. The different fraternities and sororities cut out giant, cardboard Greek letters and raised them high above the crowd canopy.

Despite the party-like atmosphere, the strongest moments for many THON participants come from interacting with the families affected by pediatric cancer.

Crawford described a moment he witnessed on Saturday where one THON child taught another THON child how to play a baton-twirling game.

"He came over to our THON child and he was like, 'Do you want to try?'" Crawford said. "She had no idea. She had never done it before. He just taught her. Our THON child learning from another THON child to do something fun. It was really magical, it was really amazing."