CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — THON 2017 weekend quickly approached and Penn State Lehigh Valley Benefiting THON, the Lehigh Valley campus’ student group, sent off its dancers with a pep-rally-style event. The Dancer Send-Off on Feb. 16 consisted of students, families and friends coming together at the Lehigh Valley campus to encourage and motivate the dancers as they headed into THON weekend, which took place Feb. 17-19 at the Bryce Jordan Center at University Park.
The event was free, open to the public and food was provided. The send-off included speeches from Penn State Lehigh Valley's THON Chair Barbara Awad and the three campus THON dancers: Marissa Pearson, Emeline Placencia and Jacob Stith; a description of fundraising efforts and those who have contributed; THON trivia for students; and a video from the dancers’ families wishing them luck.
Groups such as the Penn State Lehigh Valley Alumni Society, Lost Tavern Brewing in Hellertown, the Lehigh Valley campus Commission for Women, and Penn State Lehigh Valley Advisory Board Chair Howard Kulp came together to raise money for Penn State Lehigh Valley Benefiting THON. The Alumni Society raised about $10,000 through multiple community events. First through Penn State Lehigh Valley Day, which is an award-winning community event held in August in partnership with the Downtown Bethlehem Association. And more recently, through Dance for a Cure, which is a high-energy annual dance fundraiser held in January.
Kulp, a Penn State class of 1973 alumnus, agreed to donate $1 for every children’s book collected by the campus community for a total of $2,500 this year. The books were then donated to St. Luke’s Hospital Reading Rocks Program, which puts books in the hands of elementary school students so they can help improve reading skills and encourage students to read about healthy lifestyles. For the past five years, Kulp has challenged the THON students to collect books to donate with the promise he would donate $1 for each book. In that time, more than 7,000 books have been donated to St Luke’s through this collection drive.
Local businessman Dennis Benner agreed to donate $2,000 if his friend, Kulp, would give another $1,000. This brought Kulp's donation total to $3,500.
Lost Tavern Brewing raised more than $2,000, and the Lehigh Valley campus Commission for Women donated $500.
The Lehigh Valley campus was represented by Pearson, Placencia and Stith, who danced continuously for 46 hours alongside roughly 700 other Penn State students to raise money for pediatric cancer research and treatments, as well as to celebrate the lives of those affected.
Campus dancers are chosen through a rigorous application process that includes fundraising participation, as well as essays and interviews.
Through their yearlong efforts, the Penn State Lehigh Valley team raised more than $29,000. The Lehigh Valley total was the seventh highest out of Penn State's 19 Commonwealth Campuses. In total, Penn State's THON 2017 raised more than $10 million for Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.
Penn State Lehigh Valley Benefiting THON achieved their total through a mixture of fundraising activities throughout the year.
More than 100 students, alumni and friends came to the Lehigh Valley campus on Sunday, Feb. 19, to watch the dramatic reveal of the THON 2017 total. They celebrated with music from Billy Bauer Band, face painting, games, dancing and by watching a live feed from the Bryce Jordan Center of the reveal.
"Our dancers rocked those 46 hours! I am so proud of them, just seeing them push through it all made me smile,” said Awad. “I am proud of our campus as well for raising $29,000 for THON, and I thank all those who supported us this past year and those who will continue supporting us."
The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, known as THON, is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, raising money to fight pediatric cancer.
To stay in touch with THON, alumni can join the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG). As part of DMAIG, alumni can join 10,000 members of Penn State's largest alumni interest group. More importantly, they join 10,000 fellow THON supporters who are committed to continue the fight against pediatric cancer as alumni, while supporting the students who make THON what it is. Joining is fast and free at www.dmaig.org.
For more information about THON, visit www.thon.org.
Emily Collins contributed to this story.