**Updated from original posting on February 14, 2012**
Observing our world from the middle-aged cheap seats, I can recite a litany of reasons to not love what I see. School shootings, freak and destructive storms, crazy political rancor – it can all make a gal a little despondent. However, in the spirit of this upcoming Valentine’s Day, I would like to instead share that hope – and youth – springs eternal and is most certainly thriving in a place called State College, PA.
This month (February 21 – 23, 2014) something will happen at Penn State that is nothing short of remarkable. Thousands of students will stay awake and on their feet for 46 hours straight; all united in working toward the sole purpose of supporting the fight against pediatric cancer.
A bit of background: THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. That’s right: all STUDENT-LED. The THON website notes that back in 1973 the first dance marathon raised $2,000. Now, over forty years later, THON encompasses over 15,000 student volunteers, 700 dancers, and has raised more than $101 million, benefiting The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/6899008101/pennstatenews/a via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>
Our son Jimmy, who was actively involved in THON and danced in 2013, implored us back in 2011 to come to State College and see for ourselves what all the fuss was about. I must admit that I was expecting to observe an enthusiastic but perhaps a bit of a ragtag frenetic jumble of students running around; dancing and singing to current hip hop tunes. Something maybe equivalent to Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney’s “let’s put on a show.” I was astounded to instead be greeted by an organized event machine, much more akin to a professional telethon. The Bryce Jordan Center (BJC), with a capacity of 16,000, was filled with not just the THON volunteers, but also thousands of additional students and supporters, all standing – never sitting – and cheering for the dancers.
t was an electrifying scene, all accomplished through the love of 15,000 student volunteers. Two years later, watching my son on the BJC floor as a 2013 dancer was something I’ll carry in my heart for the rest of my life.
This year, as Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m reminded that these students, these wonderful millennials, are once again working diligently and preparing for THON 2014; steadfast in their belief that they will help find a cure for pediatric cancer. I’m beyond thrilled to offer a little shout out to the Penn State Lion Scouts and their dancers for 2014 – Corinne and Savanna. GOOD LUCK GIRLS!!
If you are so inclined, you can support the Lion Scouts team by making a donation to THON 2014 here: https://securelb.imodules.com/s/1218/thon/2012/wide.aspx?sid=1218&gid=1&pgid=920&cid=3683&bledit=1&dids=1097
Happy Valentine’s Day Happy Valley; best of luck this coming THON 2014 weekend. And, of course, Happy Valentine’s Day to you too Jimmy – thanks for everything that you, and your thousands of student friends, are doing “For The Kids.”
Additionally, for each person who comments on this blog, my husband Greg and I will make a $1 donation to THON 2014.