Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Hope Surrounds Us All"

So i have to say, when Joy announced that she was having this contest to be a guest editor on her blog, i was initially ecstatic.  I mean i love your blog Joy and ALWAYS find myself inspired to be something more than myself after I read your entries so the thought of having the chance to be part of your blog was very exciting.  However, that feeling quickly faded into sheer panic because I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how to write a blog entry.  But i figured its time to take that inspiration and put it into action and give it a go at entering your contest.  

I wanted to share something with you, and all of your loyal readers, that is very near and dear to my heart.  An organization called THON.  I am a graduate of Penn State University and the four years I spent there were very special to me for a lot of reason -- but the thing that meant the most to me was not the football games or parties but the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, better know as THON.  THON is the largest student run philanthropy in the world.  Students from every organization, fraternity, sorority, and campus of Penn State come together to raise money to support Pediatric Cancer.  This is a year long effort which comes together every year, in the middle of February, for a 46 hour dance marathon!  Each year, during the fall semester, the THON Overall Committee announces the theme for that year's THON.  I'll never forget my first THON.  The Theme was "Hope Finds A Way" and you really could feel the hope throughout the entire journey.

When the organization was formed in 1973 39 dancers raised $2,000.  THON now has 15,000 student volunteers and 700 dancers a year all working together, sacrificing their time, all to raise money to benefit pediatric cancer through the Four Diamonds Fund and Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, all For The Kids (or as we THONers will say:  FTK).  

I think that is really what touched me most about the organization.  It's the students who run it.  Students who volunteer their time when they could be studying, partying, or even have a part time job all to help kids and families who they don't even know.  And it's not just about the money, THON volunteers actually take time, all throughout the year, to meet the children suffering form this horrible disease and help them to forget about it for a while…to be kids.  They throw carnivals, take them to the pumpkin patch, and even visit them at home and at the hospital!  

The children view THON as one of the greatest weekends of the year.  Many have even said they look forward to it more than Christmas!  It gives these children the chance to be kids and do everything they could want to do.  And believe me when I tell you, the first time you meet these children, and see them smile -- you know exactly why THON is so special!  They get dressed up in fun outfits, play catch with football players, have fashion shows and talent shows, and even get up on stage and sing their favorite song (to thousands and thousands of people).  Check out this video below of one of my favorite performances from 9 year old Tucker Haas at THON in 2010 (he knew ALL the words)!

During the last four hours of the 46 hour dance marathon, THON holds what is called Family Hour.  This hour is a chance to showcase all of the families for whom we dance for!  Families have the opportunities to speak and tell their story to a basketball stadium filled (and we're talking Big 10 facility -- with bleachers up to the ceiling filled) with THON volunteers, supporters, students, alumni and families.  And you will not find one dry eye in the building.  Even the strongest toughest men break into uncontrollable tears when the families tell their stories.   Family Hour concludes with everyone coming together to sing "Angels Among Us".  The entire weekend is an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved. 

Although I have been graduated from Penn State for a few years now, I still make the effort, and the 2 1/2 hour drive, to go to THON each year!  THON 2011, "Together Without Limits" was amazing!  I was only able to make it to THON for the last day, and almost didn't make it into the building (because of fire codes, at a few points during the weekend they have to close the doors because this giant facility is FILLED to capacity).  But I made it in the building and it was so worth the travel and wait!  And this year THON raised $9,563,016.09 FOR THE KIDS!!!

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