UNIVERSITY PARK - Donning neon yellow reflective safety vests typically worn by road crews working along busy stretches of highway, students from Penn State Altoona were making their presence known in a different venue.
The students staked their claim in the front row of the stands directly opposite the main stage at the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday night at the start of the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, the largest student-run philantropy in the world.
A large white banner with the words "Toon Town" hung over the railing in front of the Altoona section. Adorned with colorful hand prints and a red dinosaur, the banner also featured the names of Altoona's six THON dancers.
"I just wanted to get involved in something bigger than myself," Penn State Altoona sophomore Shane Rogers said. Rogers, a security and risk management major, joined THON this year and was selected as a dancer.
For 46 hours, Rogers - with the help of his moraler and the support of thousands of students in the stands - pledged to dance, play games and most importantly, remain standing without sleep.
The dance marathon event is the culmination of numerous weekends students spend "canning" across the state and surrounding areas to raise money for The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. The money raised is used to help find a cure to pediatric cancer - something that strikes close to the heart for Rogers.
Rogers said his 9-year-old cousin successfully beat two brain tumors. Although she is better now and was at THON Saturday with her family, no kids should have to suffer from sickness, Rogers said.
And THON is working to make that dream a reality - last year, students continued to break the organization's previous record after raising more than $9.5 million - and many remain optimistic this year's total could top $10 million.
The weekend is full of extreme highs and emotional lows - especially during events like family hour, Altoona sophomore Breanna Deutsch said.
"Last night there was so much going on, you lose focus," Deutsch, an integrative arts major, said.
The THON motto "For the Kids," or simply "FTK," embodies why students dance for 46 hours without rest.
The weekend is a celebration of students' hard work and a chance to interact with the Four Diamonds Fund children, many of whom are at the event with their families. Armed with squirt guns and beach balls, the kids and dancers share hours of games and laughter throughout the weekend.
"It's giving [the kids] hope and brightening their day," Rogers said.
The total amount raised will be revealed at the culmination of THON 2012 at 4 p.m. today.