Ivy Leaf - Spring 2006
THON: It's All About Families
The largest student-run philanthropy in the world, Penn State's THON [the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon] raises money for pediatric cancer research and benefits The Four Diamonds Fund, Conquering Childhood Cancer, at the Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
With numerous fundraisers at many Penn State campuses, the year culminates in a no-sitting, no-sleeping, 48-hour dance marathon held every February at the University Park campus. This year, Penn State Altoona raised more than $23,000 for THON, more than doubling last year's total. Fundraising events included a "canning weekend," basket bingo, and a "mini-THON" event with music, children's crafts, and a performance by the Penn State Blue Band's Blue Sapphire, P.J. Maierhofer.
What motivates Penn State Altoona students to get involved with THON? According to Patrick Kochanasz, Penn State Altoona's THON chair, "it's about the families."
States Kochanasz, who participated in the University Park dance marathon, "THON is about the last hour, the family hour. The families come up on stage with their children who have cancer and say, 'Thanks for what you are doing. The reason our children are alive is because of what you are doing right now.'" For Kochanasz, that's what makes it "so real. It's not just throwing money in a bucket and hoping it goes somewhere good. It's like all your efforts are right there and you can physically see what you're doing. There's nothing more rewarding than that."
While the last hour may be inspiring, Kochanasz notes that the first twenty-three are not easy. He spent two months training for the dance marathon by working out, running, and weaning himself off of caffeine. "You can't drink caffeine during the actual Thon," notes Kochanasz. "They bring you food, but you're not allowed any breaks to sit down. Even during bathroom breaks, they actually stand outside your stall with a timer. It's pretty intense."