February 28, 2012

THON 2012: Brighten Every Journey

This time last week I was standing in a packed arena cheering my lungs out as the total for THON 2012 was revealed. It was an amazing experience, and I am beyond happy I was able to witness it in person. THON is like no other event in the world, and trying to describe it is near impossible. Here's a video of the total reveal. It gives me goosebumps, and it still doesn't come close to capturing the mood in the arena. Beware: the screaming is quite loud, so be sure your volume isn't cranked. And the total for THON 2012 is...

If you're unfamiliar with THON, I urge you to check out THON.org. To summarize though, THON -- whose formal name is The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon -- is a year-long effort to raise funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. THON benefits the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, and if you aren't familiar with that either, I encourage you to check it out as well; the work they do is truly inspiring. THON is also the largest student-run philanthropy in the world and culminates in a 46-hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon (hence, THON).

I won't try to describe every aspect of the weekend, because I meant what I said when I called it indescribable. There really is no way to capture in words the emotions you'll feel at THON. You'll cry during family hour when we hear from Four Diamonds families about what they go through. You'll laugh and cheer during the kids' talent show. And when the total is finally revealed, you'll probably do both. Your heart will swell when you see all the fun the kids are having. You'll be inspired by the stamina of the dancers. And you'll be in awe of the colors, harmony, and all around love that exists at THON. My friends and I joke that THON is the one weekend a year that restores our faith in humanity.

I found this year particularly emotional given the turmoil Penn State has been through. I won't get into that mess here, but I will put it out there that I love Penn State with all my heart, and THON makes me unbelievably proud to be a Penn Stater. I'll let Jay Paterno express the PSU community's feelings with this great speech he made at THON: Let Them Come to THON

But the best part of THON is that it's not about Penn State. It's not about the students, the athletes, or even the money we raise (though that part is pretty awesome). It's all about the kids. The motto of THON is "For the kids" and it's impossible to get through the weekend without hearing an "FTK!" chant. THON is all about letting the kids be kids. They've had to endure more than their share and THON is their time to cut loose.

I've said a lot of words so far in this post, and yet I feel like I've said nothing. I could talk more about the line dance, slides of strength, mail call, the pep rally, getting up at 5am just to get a seat, but it still wouldn't be enough. THON is too amazing and emotional to try to capture in sentences. It needs to be seen to truly be believed. I hope one day all of you have a chance to experience THON for yourself. Even if you're not affiliated with Penn State in any way, I promise you won't be disappointed. I'll leave you with some pictures I took during the weekend. Each one should be worth about a thousand words, so maybe I'll be a little closer to illustrating what it's like. FTK!

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