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THON Sets Another New Record, Raises $10.69 Million

on February 19, 2012 4:15 PM

The Penn State Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon has raised $10,686,924.83 this year, organizers announced about 4 p.m. Sunday, capping the 40th annual fundraiser.

The number marks the latest in a string of new fundraising records for THON.

Billed as the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, THON raised $9.56 million in 2011. Its fundraising tally for 2012 catapults to the $90 million range the total amount of money THON has raised for The Four Diamonds Fund.

The fund, which supports pediatric-cancer research and treatment, has been THON's beneficiary since 1977.

Many of those helped by The Four Diamonds Fund visit Penn State on THON weekend, when the Bryce Jordan Center hosts the marathon itself: a 46-hour, no-sleeping, no-sitting tradition. Just more than 700 dancers participated this year, representing a range of student organizations.

Thousands of other Penn State students volunteer in other ways, helping to raise money and philanthropic pledges year-round, offering moral support to the dancers and organizing event logistics.

For those dancing, the weekend presents both extreme mental and physical fatigue, students said.

But they're helped along heavily by the presence of children assisted by The Four Diamonds Fund, said Sara West, a senior from Tampa, Fla. Dozens and dozens of young cancer patients play and dance on Jordan Center arena floor with their college-age benefactors.

West called THON a weekend when the youngsters "can forget about all their problems."

She has found energy in the children's strength over the weekend, picking them up and holding them at times when "I didn't even have the strength to walk," West said.

Cancer took the lives of her four grandparents, and she has an aunt who survived the disease, she said. Everyone involved in THON, West said, has a different reason for taking up the cause.

When the event weekend finally arrives, "you kind of learn a lot about yourself in the process," she said, as participants talk with one another for hours upon hours.

Teams of student "moralers" help keep the dancers on their toes, both physically and emotionally. They talk with the dancers; they accompany them on walks off the main event floor; they give foot massages.

One trick of the trade: Don't give the foot massages too soon; otherwise, they can lose their effectiveness in getting the dancers through THON's final hours, said moraler and Penn State senior Dan Conner, of Peninsula, Ohio.

"A lot of times, getting (a dancer) away from the crowd" for a few minutes can help a lot, said Ryan Plessinger, a moraler and Penn State senior from Glendale. It's tough to overstate the value of giving dancers a few minutes of fresh air and sunlight, he said.

Ice baths and rubbing tennis balls on dancers' feet are a couple other tried-and-true techniques to combat fatigue, volunteers said.

Like many other student volunteers, Plessinger committed himself to THON as a freshman and hasn't let up. He called it an indispensable part of the Penn State experience.

"It's the closest group of friends you could ever have," Plessinger said.

StateCollege.com's sister site Onward State has more complete THON coverage. The Onward State THON presence on Twitter is available at @THONwardstate; Onward State is on Facebook here.

A variety of past Penn State THON stories and multimedia features, including photos and videos, are available via StateCollege.com's THON page. It's linked below.

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