Every February in State College since 1973, Penn State students gather together at the Bryce Jordan Center for 46 hours to show cancer what it cannot do: fight against thousands of college kids who work tirelessly throughout the year to raise money for cancer research. For decades, Penn State’s IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, better known as THON, has brought a special kind of energy into the spring semester, with a celebration of a year’s worth of work.
Though all are welcome to attend the event, there are a select few students who have gone above and beyond to contribute to the cause throughout the years to earn the coveted role as a THON Dancer.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, THON has been adjusted to a virtual setting through Zoom to avoid the spread of the disease to the children of THON.
Dancers, who have waited four long years for the opportunity, are forced to fall in line and stand in smaller groups of less than ten, joining Zoom live streams for their organization, as well as live streams for THON itself, with all its infamous activities and performances.
Members of VALLEY hold a wide range of passions beyond the journalism field and several are heavily involved with THON.
VALLEY had the privilege to speak to two THON 2021 dancers, VALLEY’s Editor-in-Chief, Carmen DiPippo, who danced for Volé Dance Company and VALLEY’s Copy Editor, Emma Creamer, who danced for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), both seniors this year.
Penn State students originally from Pennsylvania are no stranger to THON, attending mini-THONs at their respective high schools. Entering Penn State four years ago, DiPippo, originally from Washington, D.C., was not as familiar with THON as some others. Luckily, through her organization, Volé, she quickly fell in love with the cause and the people behind it.
DiPippo applied to be a dancer last year as a junior, dealing with tough competition with seniors that have waited four years. It “was a tough fight” as she said, but has finally got her chance to dance this THON, and has maintained a positive outlook on her unique dancer experience.
Since not all of DiPippo’s friends and members of Volé can’t be with her on this special weekend, they have been showing their support and appreciation with dancer mail and short visits. Volé’s THON families, the Weinhold’s and the O’Toole’s, have been a great motivation for DiPippo, staying up past their bedtimes for virtual hangouts with the dancers.
Despite the virtual circumstances, friends of dancers and members of their communities within THON have risen to the occasion for the sake of this special cause, fighting pediatric cancer.
“It’s important to remember why we’re doing this.. it’s for the kids, it’s always been for the kids”, says Creamer. Though everyone may wish they were surrounded by their friends cheering them on at the BJC, it’s imperative we remember why we still THON, even over Zoom- THON saves lives and is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
Creamer says, “This past year’s been really hard for almost everyone. It’s been a journey to get here and I think THON’s theme this year, Rise and Unify, is perfect because it allows everyone to come together and remember we’re here for an important cause, an amazing cause.”