Students at Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSLV) are gearing up for this year’s THON events – virtual-style! Aside from a small, socially distanced wrap-up event, the 2021 dancers will participate from their homes for the first time ever, with allotted times for sleep and rest.
THON, Penn State’s annual dance marathon, is the world’s largest student-run philanthropic event. In response to the global pandemic the fundraiser, which usually fills the Bryce Jordan Center with thousands of dancers and supporters for the 46-hour no sitting/no sleeping event, will be held virtually for the first time in its history. Despite the challenges of the past year, the Penn State Lehigh Valley Benefiting THON student organization worked tirelessly to continue to fundraise for the Four Diamonds Fund at Hershey Medical Center, the beneficiary of this annual event. Chaired by Brianna Peters, the PSLV team held a virtual 5K, a book sale and children’s book drive, ribboning sales at local diners and Christkindlmarkt and volunteered at Lights in the Parkway to raise funds. Additionally, students reached out to family and friends to seek donations through their own donor drive pages.
Lehigh Valley students have an opportunity each year to apply to represent their campus as a THON dancer. This year, three students were selected for the honor.
Brianna Peters, a sophomore business management and marketing major, became involved in THON during her first year at Penn State. Peters helped on several committees and fundraised at a variety of events but was especially moved during her time at THON weekend 2020. Following that weekend, Peters expressed interest in and was selected as chairperson for 2020-21. At that time, Peters was unaware of the nontraditional approach she would need to help lead in order to engage students and fundraise during a pandemic.
“Becoming a THON dancer has been a goal of mine since my first year. It may look a little different this year, but I wouldn’t change the opportunities I’ve been able to see through for the world. I was given the chance to lead and now the ability to stand for the kids and I’m grateful,” Peters said.
Junior Alexis Matlack, majoring in psychology with a minor in business, also saw her passion for THON grow during her first year at Lehigh Valley. She too was active in many on- and off-campus events and fundraisers and became increasingly more dedicated as she saw the success and impact of her involvement.
“I THON to remember those who have lost their battle, to support those who are still fighting, and to help find a cure. I am so honored to be representing the PSU-LV campus this year. I can't wait to dance with my best friend," Matlack said. As with Peters, it was the emotional in-person event at 2020 THON that sealed her desire to take on a leadership role in THON and to one day become a dancer.
Rhea Kochhar, first-year student and business major from New Jersey has an even more personal reason for her desire to be a dancer. Kochhar is a two-time pediatric cancer survivor, having experienced a brain tumor diagnosis requiring follow-up treatments. Kochhar is constantly seeking ways to pay forward the kindness she received during her treatment and wishes to set an example for other pediatric cancer patients who may find strength in seeing someone who has not only fought the illness but is thriving.
Although Kocchar must attend her classes fully virtual because of her medical history, she does not allow this to limit her involvement. The Student Affairs team can count on Kochhar to be present at almost every event offered. “I’m so excited to be chosen as a THON dancer as I am a childhood cancer survivor myself. I have an opportunity to represent other childhood cancer patients and bring awareness to this cause,” Kocchar said.
THON weekend will be held Feb. 19 to 21. The Penn State Lehigh Valley Benefiting THON student organization and Student Affairs will host a small on-campus event to wrap up the weekend on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dancers and student supporters will gather in Room 135 and the event will adhere strictly to all COVID-19 guidelines. To sign up contact Pam Fleck, assistant director of student affairs, at [email protected]
Individuals are also invited to write letters of encouragement to the dancers. Notes can be submitted via email to [email protected], dropped in the Student Affairs mailbox behind reception or mailed to campus.
To make a donation to THON 2021 on behalf of the Penn State Lehigh Valley team, visit the Penn State Lehigh Valley THON page.