THON credit to PSU

The Reading Eagle

Each winter the Bryce Jordan Center, normally the home for Nittany Lions basketball and other indoor sports, is put to a far more significant purpose as the headquarters of a remarkable charitable endeavor.

THON, a 46-hour dance marathon led by Penn State students, raises money for pediatric cancer research and patient support.

Billed as the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, it’s brought in nearly $200 million for a great cause in its nearly five-decade history.

As with most fundraisers, the normal goal each year is to exceed the amount of money brought in 12 months earlier. That didn’t happen this year, but due to the circumstances the event was an even bigger triumph than ever before.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced big changes to the event. The Jordan Center was not packed with people in a party atmosphere.

There were some entertainment activities in the Penn State arena, but no spectators or packed floor. The event was livestreamed, with 592 dancers participating individually in their homes.

In the absence of medical staff on call, participants were encouraged to take breaks from dancing and participate in other, less strenuous activities for part of the time.

Despite these changes, the event raised $10.6 million, only about $1 million shy of what it collected in 2020.

THON Executive Director Katie Solomon, a senior from Harleysville, summed up the situation well, when she said, as quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer, “THON will not stop for literally anything but a cure.”

This year’s fundraising total is a remarkable accomplishment, especially considering the financial hardships so many people are facing amid the pandemic.

The students involved in organizing this year’s event deserve enormous credit for persevering at a time when it’s so easy to become discouraged, and amid an upending of normal campus life.

Keep in mind that the money raised wasn’t just a result of the weekend activities. THON fundraising has been going on since last summer through online giving, merchandise sales, donor drives and corporate sponsorships. It’s a major undertaking.

Consider also how THON has endured amid past challenges, including the loss of a major fundraising stream when the dangerous practice of traveling to solicit money along Pennsylvania roads was wisely abandoned.

This year’s success went beyond the financial aspect. Not only did the event raise an impressive amount, but organizers saw some benefits in the virtual presentation.

Organizers said the livestream helped THON connect well with an online audience. The evidence was clear, as 165,000 unique viewers from more than 70 countries tuned in, about 35,000 more viewers more than in 2020.

Expect to see some of this year’s ideas adapted for future THON celebrations.

It’s appropriate to stop and celebrate this year’s astonishing success, but it won’t be long before the work begins again.

We encourage readers to support the work of THON, whether it be through the event at University Park or the smaller versions held at Penn State branch campuses, area high schools and other places.

Penn State Altoona raised $33,324 toward this year’s THON total.

The money raised supports the Four Diamonds charity, which supports research for a cure and helps families with children undergoing cancer treatment at Penn State Children’s Hospital at Hershey.

The continued success of THON is a bright spot in this grim winter and a reminder that whatever our challenges, there is reward in perseverance.

Hearty congratulations to all involved.


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