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THON 2016: Don’t Be Disappointed, Be Proud

I’ll never forget the feeling that swept through the Bryce Jordan Center last February when the total was revealed.

It was a peculiar mixture of two emotions that naturally conflict with each other: sheer joy and uneasy disappointment.

Whether or not you’re willing to admit it, when you saw those placards flip up and reveal the first year-to-year decrease in THON history, two thoughts likely went through your head (in no particular order):

‘Holy crap, Penn State students just raised over $13 million to fight pediatric cancer.’

‘Holy crap, THON didn’t break the record again. What does this mean?’

If you’re one of the people who felt that initial wave of disappointment when a seemingly infinite run of record-breaking years came to an end, that’s natural and healthy and fine and there’s nothing wrong with you. 

And when THON 2016 rolled around, no matter what the total ended up being, that peculiar mixture of joy and disappointment wasn’t going to repeat itself. That initial shock of a decreased total got out of our systems last year. And with two canning weekends cancelled leading up to THON 2016, nobody expected a new record, or more than last year, or even an eight-figure total.

But even then, there’s going be some understandable disappointment when the total isn’t higher than that of 2015, or 2014, or 2013, or 2012.

And while I disagree with your disappointment, I really do get it. Setting new records was fun. THON felt like an unstoppable force for years, and in many ways, it still is one. After all, it’s the largest student-run philanthropic organization in the world. And there truly might not be a more extraordinary and emotional few hours in the world than the end of THON. 

But the real reason you shouldn’t be disappointed is this: the Four Diamonds Fund has $9,770,332.32 more than it had yesterday. And that’s all thanks to the efforts of over 15,000 student volunteers at Penn State who band together every year with the common goal of conquering childhood cancer in mind.

When Four Diamonds director Suzanne Graney addressed the media shortly after THON ended, a tear ran down her face onto the table in front of her.

‘What I see is that we’re up $9.7 million, which is an incredible accomplishment. I am bursting with pride for these students. My tear here is about how proud I am,’ she said, pointing to the desk. 

THON public relations director Lily Beatty offered up a similar sentiment, and while you might assume it was public relations spin, the genuine smile on her face said otherwise.

We believe in a common goal of conquering childhood cancer. I’m inspired by it. Everyone up here is inspired by it. And I know that all 15,000 people that were just in the Bryce Jordan Center are inspired by it,’ Beatty said. ‘It’s $9.7 million that wouldn’t exist in the fight against childhood cancer if it wasn’t for THON. … We are incredibly proud of that number. It represents the whole-hearted efforts of 15,000 students for THON this year. Student volunteers should really be proud of this.’

And she’s right. Raising just shy of $10 million to support families battling childhood cancer financially and emotionally and fund research for a cure is an incredible feat. It’s something special. It’s something that happens at Penn State and nowhere else. 

So don’t be disappointed. Be proud, and keep fighting For The Kids and For The Cure.