Four Lehigh Valley students represent campus at record-breaking THON 2024

four young women and a young boy smiling at the camera

Penn State Lehigh Valley 2024 THON dancers, Sahiba, Maeve, Arica, and Tara spend time with a Four Diamonds family during the annual 46 hour no-sleeping, no-sitting, dance marathon at the Bryce Jordan Center. 

Credit: Mary Kate Maguire

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — The last of the confetti has been swept up. The lights in the Bryce Jordan Center (BJC) have dimmed. The energetic group of dancers and their cheering crowd of supporters have left the building. Penn State THON 2024 may be over, but its impact is just beginning.  

After all the monies have been tallied, this year’s THON raised a record-setting $16,955,683.63 for Four Diamonds at Penn State Children’s Hospital. This surpasses THON 2023’s record-breaking total of $15,006,132.45 by nearly $2 million. 

Penn State Lehigh Valley came in as the third largest fundraiser among the 19 Penn State Commonwealth Campuses, raising $69,563 this year and sending four dancers — Tara Fogle, Maeve Yanes, Sahiba Kathuria, and Arica Wieder — to represent the campus at the BJC. 

“Our students worked really hard to fundraise,” said Pam Fleck, PSU-LV assistant director of student affairs. “We were able to make it so close to the top thanks to the generosity of our alumni, especially Lost Tavern’s Hops 4 Hope event which raised $30,000 for THON this year, bringing the brewery’s total contribution to over $100,000 since the creation of their event; the 2024 Dance for a Cure, a perennial favorite among our alumni groups which brought in approximately $19,000; and PSU-LV donor, former advisory board chair and current executive committee member, Mr. Howard Kulp, who generously matches funds raised by our campus book drive for THON — this year $5,000.” 

The four students danced and stood without sleep for 46 hours — from 6 p.m. Feb. 16 to 4 p.m. Feb. 18 — at the BJC, all in the name of supporting patients and families affected by childhood cancer. 

Sahiba Kathuria, a second-year finance major from India, is the first international student dancer to participate from PSU-LV. The THON experience is not easy to put into words, she said.

“It was magical, it was spectacular, it was hard, it was rough,” she said. “Sometimes I was on cloud nine; sometimes I felt like giving up. We had kids on the floor with us, and I wanted to do every possible thing I could do for those pure souls. Kids are supposed to be confused about what candy they want or if they should go to school tomorrow instead of wondering if they would beat cancer. If dancing for 46 hours made even one of them smile, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.” 

For Fogle, a second-year veterinary medicine major, THON’s mission hits close to home and she wanted to participate, she said.

“My main reason [for getting involved as a student dancer] was to help others because this money goes to a really good cause. The second reason is because when I was younger, my mom passed away from cancer, and it hit me really hard," said Fogle. "I don’t want other families to have to worry about things like financial hardship when they’re going through so much already.” 

Dancing and standing for 46 straight hours take plenty of physical and mental stamina. PSU-LV’s student dancers prepared for the event beforehand — much like training for any marathon — as much as they could.

“Nothing can really prepare you for being on the floor, but I tried to do a lot of cardio, and gave up wearing heels about a month ago, which was hard because I love wearing them. It’s so important to wear comfortable shoes for those 46 hours,” Kathuria said. “It did get unbearable at one point though. For a long while I had a knee brace on. I also had my feet and knees taped up because they just hurt so bad.”

She also tried to give up caffeinated beverages for about a month, as dancers are not permitted coffee, energy drinks, or other stimulants for the duration of THON.

“[We] were given water, Gatorade, snacks, and meals,” she said. “We had to prepare ourselves mentally and physically, and sometimes it did stress us out. When I was out on the floor, there were some moments when I got so sleepy and tired — it did take its toll. But when you see people cheering for you, it helps keep you going. Moreover, it’s the support of my DRCMs [Dancer Relation Committee Members] Juliana and Mike that kept me going as well. Luckily for me, the time zone back in India also helped a lot. India is approximately 10 and a half hours ahead so during the late hours when I was ready to drop down, I had my parents giving me a good time.” 

Fogle said she “doesn’t think she would have lasted” without the constant support of her two DRCMs, Emma Pedone and Elizabeth Rader. Fogle said that next time she wants to be a DCRM and help others through the grueling weekend.  

Fleck was a member of the THON committee as a Penn State student in the late 1980s and said she was “just in awe over students being able to put together such a multi-faceted event” the first time she attended as a staff member. She called it a “life-changing experience when you see the energy and perseverance of all the students. It’s an experience you would get at no other school. There’s such energy, passion, and dedication for the cause — to me, it’s such a selfless event because it goes on almost year-round. It’s such a meaningful part of the student experience for those who are invested in it. With THON, Penn State allows something no other school provides.”