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State College Native has Critical Role in Final THON Before Graduation

by on February 21, 2014 6:00 AM

Mac Weiler grew up going to THON with his parents and siblings. It became a major part his childhood.

But watching as a kid he never imagined one day he'd be in the middle of it all.

Fast forward to his sophomore year at Penn State, and he found himself escorting a group of athletes out onto the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center through a "human tunnel" with thousands cheering around him.

"Walking out onto that floor in the middle of the pep rally when the building is packed, when people are so excited and energized ... and just lighting it up with volume and cheers was one of the coolest things. It was just so exciting," Weiler says. "You just get engulfed in emotion and energy the minute you step out there."

The youngest of three children, Weiler watched as both his brother and sister participated in and helped organize THON. So it was only natural for him to do the same.

"They just had such amazing experiences and said it was life changing and I just always knew I wanted to experience the same things," Weiler says.

Wieler, a senior and 2010 State College High School graduate, is now a member of THON's executive committee, and is the director of "OPPerations," which is a combination of operations and the Office of Physical Planning.

"It's very different now. When I was going to it when I was younger it was never something I thought, 'oh one day I'll playing a role in this,'" Weiler says.

Penn State's THON, a massive dance marathon, was first organized in 1973 by a group of Penn State students. Today it is the longest dance marathon in the country lasting 46 hours.

The event raises funds for childhood cancer treatment and research through the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. Last year, THON donated $12.4 million to Four Diamonds. In all, THON has raised more than $101 million for the fund.

This year, Weiler oversees 21 other event organizers and is a liaison with the Bryce Jordan Center. He'll be managing set-up, tear down, maintenance, safety, and cleanliness throughout the facility.

"For my senior year, I wanted the opportunity to give more back, to play a larger part, and have a bigger influence on the direction of the committee," he says. "It makes you appreciate how much goes into it, how much planning goes into it. It's a very vast event, very complex. Now, I understand my small sliver of it. It makes you appreciate how much effort people put into it."

With this being Weiler's last year as a Penn State student, he says he's going to try to make the most of THON.

"I couldn't be more excited and my biggest thing is just enjoying it as much as I can and trying to do everything I can," he says. "I have a lot of responsibilities ... but I also do have a lot of time, which I can really take advantage of during the amazing exciting weekend that it is. I'm going to spend time with families I met over the year, spend time with my family, the captains, I can find my friends who are dancing and give them support. That's how I to want to spend my last THON."

THON weekend starts Friday. Independent dancers, who must raise a minimum of $2,800, receive a ticket in the dancer lottery with additional tickets available if more money is raised. Dancers are then randomly selected. Since moving to the Bryce Jordan Center, there have been 708 dancers each year.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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February 21, 2014 12:00 AM
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