Another THON weekend has come and gone, and another monumental amount has been raised to support families battling pediatric cancer.
The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon came to a close on Sunday afternoon with the announcement that the 2015 event raised $13,026,653.23 for the kids. THON is a 46-hour dance marathon that follows a year-long fundraising effort.
THON's 2015 theme was Empower the Dreamers, which the fundraising total will help do as it aims to support research in the effort to find a cure for childhood cancer. The world's largest student-run philanthropic organization raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund, which is based out of Penn State Hershey Medical Center's children's hospital.
Thanks to THON's contributions through the years, Four Diamonds has never had to turn down a prospective family in need, paying for treatment and other needs.
The weekend featured a slew of performances and events to keep the dancers motivated for nearly two entire days. Local bands including Lowjack, My Hero Zero, and the recently reformed Table Ten took the stage throughout the weekend. A Saturday pep rally had athletic teams from the university perform on the stage.
Four Diamonds founder Charles Millard, whose son Chris passed away from cancer, addressed the crowd in the final hours of THON to thank the over 15,000 volunteers and dancers for their participation. His speech came just after the emotional Celebration of Life video, which details Four Diamonds children who have passed away through the years.
"What we have just witnessed is a part of the need for a cure. A cure is coming and you're making it happen. You are helping Chris' dream come true," Millard said.
The succinct message from Millard came during family hour, which falls during the 45th hour of THON and celebrates families' battles with childhood cancer. Penn State football head coach James Franklin spoke to the crowd along with THON child Noah Benner and his daughter, Shola, to kick off the most emotional hour of THON weekend.
"It’s amazing to walk in this arena and see the type of commitment you guys all make; to see the type of commitment you have in our lives," Franklin says. "I can't express to you guys walking in here how much you empower and how much you inspire not only the Penn State community but the entire country. If you want to talk about Penn State’s culture, look around. This is Penn State's culture."
After the 46-hour marathon came to a close, THON executive director Megan Renaut and public relations director Aly Young -- both Penn State seniors -- spoke to the media and expressed gratitude to everyone involved in the weekend. Young says that THON accomplished its mission of not just raising funds, but raising awareness for the kids. She added that having Four Diamonds families in the arena all weekend long is what keeps the 708 dancers motivated.
"The kids come in and bring so much life and energy into the building. It's crucial to the success of our event," she says.
Renaut was ecstatic with the fundraising total and THON 2015 as a whole.
"The efforts that everyone put in this year paid off tenfold," she says. "It's incredibly inspiring and I can go on for days about how much it means to everyone in the building."
The effort will continue until one day, the Bryce Jordan Center can be filled not in hopes of a cure for pediatric cancer, but in celebration of finding one. The fundraising window for THON 2016 is open.
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