Websters Dictionary defines the word Journey as “an act or instance of traveling from one place to another”. Over the past 40 years, THON has certainly been on a journey. It started from humble beginnings in the HUB Ballroom, to growing in the White Building and in Rec Hall, and now to its current home in the BJC. It has gone from raising just over $2,000 in 1973 to $9.56 million in 2011. But, aside from the larger journey of the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, there are all of the other journeys that have helped to shape THON as a whole; smaller journeys. There have been tens of thousands of dancers and THON Volunteers throughout these past 40 years. And, for all those journeys, there is a story. These are the stories of THON and its volunteers throughout the years.
Eric Rosengard, Dance Marathon 2008-2010
‘Many Things Have Changed…’
Seeing those first lines of ‘Don’t Waste a Minute’ in the stands during THON 2007 placed me on one path for the next 3 years, THON. As a freshman film major, I had an idea, ‘what if I had the chance to make a THON video, during THON, to be played at the same THON?’ I brought that idea to my first THON interview, and was lucky enough to be selected as one of the two original Entertainment Production Captains for THON 2008.
Hope Found it’s Way…
Being a member of the production team allowed my co-captain, Evan, and I to experience THON from pretty much any angle we wanted. The first time we shot for THON 2008 was at Hershey Medical Center, with Four Diamonds Fund founder Charles Millard. I never knew the story of how THON and The Fund began, and the incredible partnership they formed. Listening to Mr. Millard talk about the impact the students have had on hundreds of families, and how we have honored Christopher Millard’s memory was beyond incredible. From that point on, I knew that my captain experience would not be defined by the videos that I made, but the impact that they had on THON and everyone who watched.
THON 2008 laid the groundwork that allowed Entertainment and production to grow in years to come. Besides my dream of creating a video during THON weekend, we were able to set a new standard and traditions that continue to this day. Now Dreaming Forward…
Through my involvement with Club Swimming (more commonly known as the STKs, Swim Team Kewties), we were extremely fortunate to be paired with the Bryona Hamilton family! Getting to know Bryona, her brother Parker, and her parents has been the most extraordinary part of not just my THON experience, but also my time at Penn State. The memories we made together will last a lifetime, and what I learned from the Hamiltons I will never forget. Also, it was great being welcomed back to THON 2011 as an alumnus with being soaked by Parker and his squirt gun.
Love Does Belong Here…
I thought that my senior year was my last chance to make a lasting impact on THON. I decided to go back to my THON roots, and was selected with DJ Broccoli as the THON 2010 Entertainment Production Captains. We knew that in order to show the world what the ‘Largest Student-Run Philanthropy’ looks like, we had to make some changes and improvements. We decided that it was now time for THON to enter the world of high-definition. With the improvements we were making, and the increased amount of video requests, it was time for Entertainment Committee Members! We could never realize how much work a committee could be, but the reward was incredible. To see student-volunteers attend, many of their first, THON and really capture the spirit was beyond incredible. Even greater has been to watch them grow into leaders and continue work For the Kids into the future.
Now as a Penn State and THON alumnus in Los Angeles, I am working with other great alumni in the area to put on the first ever Hollywood THON, Lights.Camera.Cure. We can’t wait to show Tinseltown what THON is all about!
The question, ‘What is your favorite THON moment?’ is nearly impossible for me to answer. I could say Larry Moore surprising Evan and I with the iMac THON Weekend, dancing on stage with Bryona, the human tunnel, standing for the 46 hours of THON 2009, or leading the first Entertainment committee, but there are so many more. The people that I met, life-long friendships formed, and seeing first hand how dreams really do come true is what I took from my experience. If I have to pick one moment, I took a couple minutes to go to the edge of the stage alone during the last four hours of THON 2010 to reflect and let the moment sink in. I will never forget that view, my favorite, or all of the memories and emotions that rushed through me.
To all of the Overalls, Captains, Committee Members, Dancers, Volunteers, and THON supporters this year:
Take that moment. Let all your late hours, hard work, and passion for THON sink in for a moment. Every single thing you are doing for THON is allowing a child and family to live a better life. You will never truly see the impact you are making, but there are people across the country inspired by what you are doing. Never forget on all the late nights, long meetings, and early shifts that you are making a difference, not just in the life of a child, but with everyone connected to him or her, and also yourself. I truly wish the best to each and every one of you, and remember: "We accomplish amazing things by working together, inspiring each other, and fighting with determination.”
Don’t Waste a Minute.
For The Kids Always & Forever,
Class of 2010
Ryan Murrary, Dance Marathon 2009:
As a junior in 2009 my girlfriend’s roommate convinced me to raise money, as an independent dancer, to dance in THON. I wanted to be a part of THON after visiting a dancing friend the year prior, but didn’t expect my first real experience to be as a dancer. We went canning and raised money (a lot more than I thought we could). I enjoyed every second of it and never thought I would get that phone call. I conditioned myself to be happy with what we accomplished- but when the phone call came, when I heard I had been given the chance to dance, I was euphoric.
I was a little bit frightened as to whether or not I could make it though the 46 hours, especially the dead hours when the stands would empty. You never know the exact time- but I told myself- don’t let anyone fool you; you always know when it is the middle of the night. I will admit I was scared going in of the hours when the stands would start to empty that first night. But seeing the kids that have had there energy sapped by the monster pulling at them made me realize that 46 hours is not that much in the big picture. Seeing those children getting to enjoy those 46, few, hours as normal children is better than anything in the world. These kids that endure more than anyone should ever have to endure, and the families that go through too much, deserve more that 46 hours, and that is what is why we dance. The inspiration collected from the children and everyone around you is enough to keep you up for a week. There is something extraordinarily powerful that occurs during those 46 hours. A campus of more than 40,000 comes together for a cause. Students and families give up more time then they have and the result is something so moving, so special, something that I most definitely will never experience again in my lifetime.
It has been a few years since that weekend but I can remember every second of it to this day. I remember spending the pep rally with Laura, who was a photographer if I ever met one, at only 5 years old. I remember the squirt gun fight with a brother and sister combo (though I can’t recall any names I can recall they won). I remember struggling though the late night hours and being revived by my terrific Moraler and the amazing energy brought by the kids and the crowd. Enjoy every second of the 46 hours. It may seem like a long time, but when it’s over you will wish you could do it all over again. And believe me- there may be few rough points along the way, but looking back- it was over all too soon.
To this point in my life THON has been the most important event I have been apart of. Hopefully someday we will not have to dance, but until then- WE DANCE FOR A CURE.
Looking for more great stories to see how far THON has come over the last 40 years? Check out this great blog about the Dance Marathon in 1993. THON 2012 Dancer, Karissa Maxwell, has posted a blog about THON this year which you can view here. As always, send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your experience. THON IS TOMORROW!