10 Things You Need to Know About THON

oberdorf_THONWe’re less than a week away from THON and a lot of us are getting pumped for the moment when we begin the trek to the BJC. If someone is new to Penn State, isn’t part of THON in any way or just doesn’t know, it can be hard to explain. So here are 10 things you need to know about THON.

1. It’s 46 hours.

It used to be 36 hours, then 48, but now it’s 46 hours of nonstop, on your feet action. Yes, it’s almost two days…but not quite. But by the time you’re done, it’ll feel like you’ve been awake for more than a week.

2. Time does not exist inside the BJC for those 46 hours.

The time zones on dancers’ phones are changed so they’re not constantly looking at the clock and wondering how long they’ve been dancing and remembering how tired they are and how much longer they have until they can sleep. It’s hard to tell the time of day once you’re inside the BJC. Time is marked more by events and dance floor visitors than an actual time clock.

3. It’s the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Yeah, the world.

More than 15,000 students are involved in THON each year from the dancers, to moralers, to committees, to student organizations, canning to raise money and everything in between.

4. Last year’s THON raised $12,374,034.46. 

That brings the total money donated to fighting pediatric cancer to over $101 million since 1973. According to THON’s fundraising breakdown, last year, 95.89 percent of the funds raised went directly to the Four Diamonds Fund. The rest went to event management of THON, administrative stuff and development (public relations type stuff) with almost $39,000 left as a nest egg.

5. The Four Diamonds Fund is the sole beneficiary of THON.

The organization is based at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Its ultimate goal is to conquer childhood cancer. In 1972, the Fund was founded by Charles and Irma Millard after they lost their son, Chris, to childhood cancer. Chris had written a story about a knight who had to complete four difficult tasks to beat an evil queen who represented his cancer. Those four tasks correspond to the four diamonds: courage, wisdom, honesty and strength. The Fund offsets treatment costs families can’t cover, provides for other expenses, funds research and helps support the medical team that cares for the children.

6. This year’s theme is ‘Redefine the Possibilities.’

Enough said.

7. There is a line dance. Get ready for it.

It includes highlights from the past year along with popular songs and a catchy beat. It will get stuck in your head (2-0-1-3, great to see you, BJC). Basically, it’s the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel but in Penn State form with stuff that’s relevant to students (like that two week break we got that one time).

8. Dancers aren’t actually dancers. Wait, what?

Yes, there is dancing. However, most dancers don’t actually dance for all 46 hours. However, they do stand the entire time. Dancers are representatives of the Penn State community from organizations, commonwealth campuses or independent factions that come forward to stand for 46 hours to understand a little bit of the pain children with cancer experience every day and be a positive part of their lives.

9. It is the most organized chaos you will probably ever see.

Imagine water guns, costumes, neon, glitter, dyed hair, singing, dancing, massages, piggyback rides, little kids and a whole lot more in the BJC nonstop for 46 hours. It is the most insane, colorful, delightful thing to be in at 4 a.m.

10.  It’s all FTK.

There are things we all love to do with our weekends: sleep in, football games, catch up on homework (JK, not really), go out, etc. But this weekend is a sacred tradition for all of us to come together and make one weekend magical and make a difference for a lot of kids. It’s indescribable and inspiring and will make you choke up at least a little bit at least once.

Get ready for this because it’s going to be amazing. And for those of you who are experiencing your last THON as a student, remember that the important thing is to step back and just be part of the community you love. 

Photo by Victoria Oberdorf


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