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Thousands of students raised $10 million for pediatric cancer by dancing for 46 hours

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Thousands of students raised $10 million for pediatric cancer by dancing for 46 hours

WATCH | Penn State Students celebrate THON, an annual dance marathon that helps raise money for pediatric cancer.

Penn State Dance Marathon (otherwise known as THON) is officially recognized at the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Since its start in 1973, more than 16,500 students have raised over $136 million to help families who have a child being treated for cancer. All of the proceeds go to the Four Diamonds Fund, a beneficiary of Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Four Diamonds helps families pay for medical bills and personal expenses.

This year, students raised $10,045,478.44. This equates to thousands of hours of treatment for children that families will not have to pay. 

Throughout the year, hundreds of Penn State clubs and fraternal organizations raise money by canning in cities along the East Coast, holding charity nights at sporting events and restaurants, gaining corporate sponsorships, hosting THON-related events and simply asking family and friends for donations. Larger groups can adopt a THON family to connect with kids and families who directly receive help from Four Diamonds.

All of the fundraising leads up to the dance marathon where 703 dancers stand for 46 hours in the Bryce Jordan Center. Each organization picks a select few to represent their group on the dance floor. Students reach the 15,000-seat capacity within the first few hours and stay to support dancers until the event is over. 

THON is run by a student executive board who oversees a variety of committees such as:

  • Finance
  • Entertainment
  • Operations
  • Public Relations
  • Photography
  • Family Relations
  • Dancer Relations
  • Technology
  • Communications
  • Donor and Alumni Relations
  • Hospitality
  • Merchandise
  • Rules & Regulations
  • Special Events
  • Technology
  • Supply Logistics

From 6 p.m. Friday to 4 p.m. Sunday, a variety of entertainment acts perform for the dancers. THON families spend time with dancers playing games and enjoying the free entertainment. This year, students were surprised by a free concert featuring DNCE. 

DNCE is led by Joe Jonas, a former member of The Jonas Brothers.

During the final four hours, all of the THON families in attendance are recognized on stage. Three families share their own stories of battling cancer. A Celebration of Life video is played to honor all of the kids who lost their battle with cancer. 

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