CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — THON spans one epic 46-hour weekend at the Bryce Jordan Center every February, but the team behind the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon holds supporting events all year long. A new special events director with Lehigh Valley roots was recently named to THON’s student-run executive committee for 2024 to oversee them all.
Aidan Johnson, a graduate of Southern Lehigh High School, is no stranger to THON, having volunteered during all four of his years at Penn State. He said he was inspired to do more during his tenure as hospitality chair in his junior year. When he was offered a position on the executive committee, Johnson, a rising senior at Penn State University Park, was ready to serve.
Now in its 51st year, THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Over 16,500 student volunteers and community supporters have raised over $219 million, and last year, THON broke its own record by raising more than $15 million. All proceeds benefit THON’s sole beneficiary, Four Diamonds, which covers 100% of all medical expenses for families affected by childhood cancer at the Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.
As the special events director, Johnson oversees the signature events held around the event during the year — THON 5K powered by PNC; Harvest Day; 100 Days ‘til THON; and the Family Carnival among them — and manages the 18 captains who run the various event committees.
“We have about 120 volunteers total,” Johnson said. “It’s a really great dynamic.”
Each campus holds their own events to support THON — although Johnson is happy to lend a hand with any event, he said, his efforts are primarily focused on those held at University Park. He shadowed THON’s new executive director, Will Vincent, who previously handled special events, to ensure a smooth transition.
Johnson said he has three goals for his tenure: to make events as accessible and inclusive as possible for the Four Diamonds families; to have the volunteers enjoy the events as much as they can, and “get as many eyes on the organization as we can,” he said.
“The events open up a lot of outreach opportunities — I want to use them to brand THON," he said. As for adding events, he said he is considering some new ones on the smaller scale, as the signature events are already associated with THON.
Johnson said he is looking forward to his role and continuing the long tradition of philanthropy, hope, and community that the event represents. THON recently kicked off its third annual “Ignite the Fight” campaign to raise awareness of the opening of its fundraising window, which runs from July 1, 2023, until THON Weekend 2024 on Feb. 16-18, 2024.
For more information about THON, visit the THON website.