Penn state's 43rd annual THON event is this weekend, and this year's theme is Believe Beyond Boundaries. The organization is near and dear to my heart—here are a few reasons why.
  1. 1.
    THON is the world's largest student-run philanthropy, with 15,000 students dedicating their time, skills, passion, and love to the cause.
  2. 2.
    THON is "committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer. Our mission is to provide emotional and financial support, spread awareness and ensure funding for critical research ― all in pursuit of a cure.”
  3. 3.
    While THON is an organization that works towards its mission year round, it's namesake event is a 46-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon that takes place in Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.
    Started in 1973, it has been affiliated with Four Diamonds fund since 1977.
  4. 4.
    The money THON raises benefits Hershey Medical Center's Four Diamonds. This fund was founded in 1972 by Charles and Irma Millard after they lost their son, Chris, to childhood cancer.
    The Four Diamonds mission is to conquer childhood cancer by assisting children treated at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and their families through superior care, comprehensive support, and innovative research.
  5. 5.
    ♦️Chris had written a story about a knight who had to complete four tasks to beat an evil queen who represented his cancer. Those four tasks correspond to four diamonds: courage, wisdom, honesty and strength. There's actually a Disney movie about his story:
    That's why you see people raise their diamonds at THON (sorry Jay-Z)
  6. 6.
    Childhood cancers are the #1 disease killer of children in the U.S.
    An average of 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer every year. All diseases—cancer or otherwise—are horrific, but there is something especially insidious about diseases that affect children. Families of these kids have so much to worry about—the health of their child, of course, and all of the other strains, both mental and emotional, that go along with it. The LAST thing they should have to worry about is how—heaven forbid IF—they can pay for their child's treatment.
  7. 7.
    THON 2015 raised $13.3 million for the Four Diamonds.
    To say I was a proud Penn Stater when I watched the total reveal last February is an understatement. Since 1977, THON has raised more than $127 million benefiting Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
  8. 8.
    THON is extremely efficient: 96.09% of private donations remain after the event management, development, and operations expenses to receive them—all because overhead costs are kept so low in great part due to students' hard work.
  9. 9.
    THON as an organization consists of 16 committees that plan and run THON events and over 300 organizations that participate and fundraise for THON. Easy breakdown:
    Canning is the most popular form of fundraising. Organizations obtain permits to can on safe street corners or outside of shopping centers, and stand there for hours asking for donations. There are allotted canning weekends (usually 3-4) and hundreds of Penn Staters hit cities and neighborhoods all over the East Coast and beyond to raise as much money as they can over 2 days.
  10. 10.
    One of those Committees is Rules & Regulations, which ensures the safety and security of events and fundraising efforts all year, and THON weekend itself. It's one of the largest committees, with over 30 Captains leading over 1,000 Committee members. It's special to me because I served as an R&R Captain for 2 years❤️.
    THON 2010 and 2011 R&R captains and our Chairpersons became family to me. Both years I lead committees of 30+ students who I got to know over 6 months leading up to THON. It was one of the most difficult but rewarding experiences I've had.
  11. 11.
    One of the first rules of THON weekend is No Sitting. While there are over 700 dancers in THON, thousands of students go to the BJC to participate and support the dancers—the no sitting rule ensures solidarity with the dancers who've been on their feet literally for days, and helps Rules & Regs maintain a safe environment (#firecodes).
  12. 12.
    One of the unspoken rules of THON is Get Wacky. You'll see huge signs, funky outfits, colorful hair (or shaved heads), and props on students and Four Diamonds kids everywhere. Fanny packs aren't just cool, they're necessary, and I have a drawer full of awesome knee-high socks leftover from THON.
    The blurry dude with the balloon hat dancing with Elmo in the photo is my brother Will, who was a Dancer Relations Committee Member—he was assigned a dancer who he helped support physically and emotionally throughout the weekend.
  13. 13.
    For The Kids (FTK) is THON's motto. Four Diamonds kids are remarkable. They're the embodiment of courage, wisdom, honesty and strength. They inspire THON volunteers year-round, and their joy and love and determination are contagious.
  14. 14.
    I can't fully express here what THON weekend is like. It's happiness, it's love, it's selfless dedication. THON, as an organization, is like a giant family, and THON weekend is at once a remembrance of those lost, and celebration of life for those families who, right now, have to call the hospital their home-away-from home.
    These videos are a little taste of what THON weekend is. Don't Waste One Minute with clips from my last THON (2011): 2015 weekend recap:
  15. 15.
    THON is happening right this minute, and it ends tomorrow afternoon. You can watch the live feed and donate at