Lehigh Valley holds sendoff celebration for THON Dancers

PSU-LV THON Dancers present check to donor Howard Kulp

Former Penn State Lehigh Valley Advisory Board Chair Howard Kulp, third from left, presents a $2,500 check to this year's THON dancers at the campus's sendoff celebration. The student dancers are, from left, Brianna Peters, Rhea Kochhar, Alexis Matlack and Tyler Mantz. 

Credit: Corey McDonough

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — On Wednesday, Feb. 16, Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV) held a joyous sendoff for the four students selected to be the campus’ dancers at this year’s THON.

Students, faculty, staff, donors and family members gathered on campus to celebrate Junior Brianna Peters, senior Alexis Matlack, sophomore Rhea Kochhar and freshman Tyler Mantz, who will spend this weekend at University Park’s Bryce Jordan Center remaining on their feet and fighting sleep at the annual 46-hour dance marathon, which as always will benefit Four Diamonds at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

Now celebrating its milestone 50th year, THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, raising more than $190 million for over 4,800 families affected by pediatric cancer since its inception in 1973. All told, more than 16,500 student volunteers have taken part in the event. This year’s THON theme is “Spark Endless Light.”

At the sendoff, the students received encouraging words from Chancellor Tina Q. Richardson, Director of Academic Affairs Anibal Torres Bernal, and the campus’ THON advisers, Assistant Director of Student Affairs Pam Fleck and Admissions Counselor Joe Schwartz.

“I’m delighted to send off some of the best representatives of Penn State Lehigh Valley to THON weekend, which I believe is an event only a true Penn Stater can really appreciate,” said Richardson, noting the dancers’ altruism is an important part of their growth as college students.

After joking about how shocked he was when told how long the dancers had to remain on their feet, Torres stressed that the students were embodying the core values of the campus by “meaningfully raising funds for those in need.”

In addition, the sendoff included a video featuring well wishes from members of the campus community and the dancers’ family members. And, Matlack received the Spirit of THON award for her ongoing commitment to the cause. This weekend, she’ll be on the THON stage donating 14 inches of her hair.

Besides honoring the dancers, the event also served as an opportunity to thank members of the community who made substantial donations to the THON team. In attendance were Terry DeGroot of Terraform Engineering, $500 donation; local architect, former Advisory Board chair and longtime campus benefactor Howard Kulp, $2,500 donation; alumnus Chris Bogden, representing the annual “Dance for a Cure” event, $3,473.58 donation; and the owners of Lost Tavern Brewing, $20,000 donation.

“We don’t know where we’d be if not for the consistent financial and morale support of our amazing alumni,” Mantz said.

Of course, the fundraising will continue throughout THON weekend. Those wishing to contribute to the PSU-LV team can make a donation here.

The THON dancers all bring their own distinct passions to the cause.

A business management and marketing major, Peters has served as PSU-LV’s THON chair for the past two years. Last year, she was part of the team that placed in the top three for fundraising totals among Commonwealth Campuses. Because of that, PSU-LV was one of two Commonwealth Campuses picked to host a booth at the THON Family Carnival in December.

Matlack, a psychology major, has served as campus THON events chair for the past two years. Her efforts have resulted in several successful on- and off-campus fundraising events.

A childhood cancer survivor, Kochhar is in her second year of involvement with PSU-LV THON and is an active board member. She’s demonstrated her passion for the mission through her morale building at club meetings and her commitment to fundraisers like the Candy Sale and Annual Book Drive.

Mantz, a marketing major and photography minor, arrived on campus already an enthusiastic supporter of THON, given his involvement with his high school’s mini-THON event. Currently the campus THON’s director of alumni and donor relations, Mantz has established a bond with local alumni and is working diligently to further connect the campus with community donors.

For more information on THON, or to watch a livestream of this weekend’s festivities, visit thon.org/.