Every year, students and families pack the Bryce Jordan Center BJC at Penn State to participate in a 46 hour dance marathon to stand up against childhood cancer. This year VALLEY asked a variety of dancers about their experiences with and at THON. These are some of the reasons why we THON.
Each year, members of every organization affiliated with THON will select a certain number of dancers to represent them on the floor of the BJC for the full 46 hours. During that time, dancers aren’t allowed to sleep, shower or sit. When asked “Why do you THON?” these dancers gave similar but personal answers, since everyone’s THON story is different.
Michele Sullivan, senior labor and employment relations major dancing for Sigma Kappa said, “Raising money for the kids so parents never have to see a medical bill and knowing that the pain we’re in is nothing compared to what these kids go through.”
All the money raised over the past year will go toward the Four Diamonds Fund At Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. The fund helps children who are being treated at Penn State Hershey.
Senior, Alex Coutsoumbis is majoring in communication sciences and disorders and dancing for Club Swimming. Coutsoumbis said that he wanted to become a part of THON because, “My freshman year my sister danced and that was my first time being at THON. That experience inspired me to get more involved and raise money for this cause. My hope is that freshman and younger classes watching me down here and all of the other dancers; they feel the same way I did as a freshman and they want to get involved and help raise more money for the kids.”
THON weekend has always been “For the Kids” (FTK). When asked about their own experiences with their organization’s THON kids and families, the dancers all have varying experiences.
Lindsey Giannitti, senior majoring in hospitality management and dancing for Sigma Kappa, shared what meeting THON families has meant for her. “After meeting the families, it made me want to do more for them, especially since building a relationship with them.”
Ryan McCloy, 5th year senior majoring in architecture and dancing for Penn State Thespian Society said, “As much as this weekend is for the kids and making sure they have the best weekend of their lives, it’s also about the families, because they’re fighting with them.”
As years go by without a cure, cancer continues to affect more and more people’s lives. Not just pediatric cancer, but every kind of cancer. Stopping it in every way is why we THON and for some dancers it’s personal.
Jenna Maida, senior rehabilitation and human services major is dancing for Penn State Thespian Society. She is also a part of one of Penn State’s co-ed acapella groups, The Coda Conduct and one of her fellow members is currently fighting cancer. When asked what she would like to say about THON she said “If you’re a freshman and you’re not sure if Penn State is right for you, get involved with THON. You can make a really big school feel small by being a part of THON. Even though thousands of people participate, everyone is united for one purpose.”
Will Goniprow, senior computer science major dancing for Penn State Thespian Society has also felt the personal effects and weight cancer can put on a family. The summer of his sophomore year his father passed away from cancer. His answer to the “Why do you THON?” question starts with a story.
In 1995, Christopher Reeves, also known as Superman, was thrown from a horse and paralyzed from the neck down. While he was devastated and struggling in the hospital one day, a doctor in blue scrubs burst into this room yelling with a Russian accent. The man posing as a doctor was Robin Williams coming to cheer his friend up. Sometimes it’s hard to think everything will be okay but laughing and smiling has the power to remind you that eventually it will be.
Goniprow then said the reason we all THON … “There’s a point when kids can all be superheroes all they want because that’s the way they are and that’s what they have to do, but sometimes it just helps to laugh.”