TBT: The Philanthropic History of THON

thon80sEvery February, Penn State students come together in the Bryce Jordan Center for a magical weekend full of dancing, crazy outfits and a mission to end pediatric cancer. That’s right, I’m referring to THON.

THON has such a special place in the hearts of the current Penn State student body as well as the alumni who have danced before us. So, for this week’s TBT, we’re looking into THON’s history and how such an incredible philanthropy has become the success it is today.


The very first THON (at this time known as the IFC Dance Marathon) was February 2-4, 1973 and held in the HUB Ballroom. It was 30 hours long and had 78 registered dancers. Only 17 dancers made it to the end, with couple Cris Guenter and Sam Walker raising the most money.

1977 was the year the Four Diamonds Fund became the IFC Dance Marathon’s beneficiary. The marathon was an incredible 48 hours long and had 124 dancers fighting for a cure.

1980’s and 90’s

At the 1982 IFC Dance Marathon kickoff dinner, former Penn State running back and Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti gave a speech about his younger brother Joey’s battle with cancer.

In 1984, the IFC Dance Marathon had become the country’s largest philanthropy of its kind, raising nearly $180,000. By 1987, the event is officially referred to as THON.

THON breaks $1,000,000 for the first time in the event’s history in 1992. By 1993, the first committee of roughly 300 Moralers is introduced to keep dancers’ spirits up as they dance.

Mail from friends and family, today known as Dancer Mail, was introduced in ’94. In ’95 THON had its first female overall director.

The nineties were a massive growth period for the marathon!


In 2002, the first ever THON 5K is held and that same year, THON becomes the largest student run philanthropy in the world.

THON finds a new home in the Bryce Jordan Center in 2008, drawing a record-breaking attendance.

In 2011, the word THON transforms from just a noun to a regularly used verb for phrases like “We THON in a week!” or “Why do you THON?”

No one yet knows what THON 2014 will add to the already impressive timeline of the dance marathon’s history, but it is all for the kids, so it is already a smashing success.

Photo credit and all information is courtesy of http://alumni.libraries.psu.edu/thonLore.html 


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