Taking Flight in the Fight Against Cancer: THON 5K

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While THON weekend itself isn’t until mid-February, THON is still a yearlong effort committed to raising money and making a difference in the lives of countless children.While it seems like many committees are just getting started, the Special Events committee has been hard at work for months planning the first large THON event of the year: the THON 5K.

The event took place this past Sunday, and was a great way to kick off to the THON season. This year’s theme was “Taking Flight in the Fight Against Cancer”, and the 5K really was an opportunity for the THON 2019 season to truly begin to do this.

VALLEY sat down with the Special Events THON 5K captains, Bridget Horan and Kassidy McCullough, as well as THON Special Events Director Zach Ceneviva, to learn more about what goes into planning one of the largest THON events of the year.

Photo by Nolan Marrett.

The 5K is a unique event in that it is a great opportunity for Four Diamonds families, who are paired with organizations, to interact with the members of the THON community and create bonds with them. Since the event is held outside and open to anyone who wishes to participate, entire organizations can be present and show the families how much the Penn State community cares about them. It is a great opportunity for new Four Diamonds families to interact with their paired organizations.

“The 5K is unique from other THON special events. With it being one of the largest events, new families can be thrown in full force. This is a whole weekend endeavor that is great for the families to experience the unconditional love and support from the community,” says Ceneviva.

It is often easy to forget that the support that THON gives to the Four Diamonds families requires more than just one weekend out of the year. The families need support from Penn State year-round, and the 5K is one example of how THON works to provide it.

“Having these special events really shows the community that THON is more than just THON weekend. We are there for the families 365 days a year. Events like the 5K show the families how much we really care about them,” says Horan.

While the 5K may seem like just a race to benefit THON, there is much more to it. The Special Events committee makes an incredible effort to create a fun-filled day for the families and the Penn State students.

“It’s a day filled with fun-filled activities. There is a pep rally, a concert, and it’s really just a whole day for the community to interact together,” Horan says.

Photo by Anna King

Planning efforts for this event began in April, just after Horan and McCullough were announced as the 5K captains.

“We had time over the summer to get feedback from past captains and directors. We wanted to make the event more inclusive this year for committee members, families and organizations. Having the community participating was important to us because this event is a glimpse at what the rest of the THON season is like,” says McCullough.

The 5K may only be a one-day event, but a lot of planning and preparation goes on behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly.

“The 5K is one day, but the amount of people who take time out of their schedule to put this event on is crazy. So many people have had a hand in it,” says Horan. 

While the Special Events committee oversees the event itself, it is made possible by all of the THON committees working together. The Dancer Relations committee can be found cheering on runners and encouraging them to persevere through the race along with the other committees; the Hospitality committee is prepared with food, water and juice for both before and after the race; the Entertainment committee is there to make sure all the logistics of the concert run smoothly. No matter the committee, the 5K is a chance for everyone involved in THON to work together and make a difference For The Kids.

Despite the cold temperatures, thousands of runners, Four Diamonds families, captains and committee members came out to participate in the race. The day began with a family speaker from the McKenna Speed family, which helped to inspire all runners and volunteers to remember why they give back to THON. Then, captains of the Dancer Relations committees led the crowd in the 2018 Line Dance before kicking off the Kid’s Race.

Photo by Nolan Marrett

Once the 5K began, THON volunteers and committee members could be found all throughout the course encouraging the runners. While it was chilly, the energy and spirits were very high amongst the runners.

Following the race was a concert by local band My Hero Zero. This post-race entertainment served as a great way for student volunteers to spend time with Four Diamonds families as well as an opportunity for newly-chosen committee members to get to know one another even more.

While the THON 5K may be over, there are still several upcoming opportunities to support the cause before THON weekend in February.

Throughout the year, the Special Events committee teams up with Penn State Athletes to dedicate one game to THON and the Four Diamonds families. The next athletic event is THON Men’s Soccer this Sunday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m.


“Our goal is to spread THON’s magic all year long. It’s a yearlong effort,” says McCullough. “To be able to spread and show our love and support for these families is something really special.” 


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