These days it’s easy to be pessimistic. Economies are struggling, people are still out of work and losing their homes, and don’t even get me started on the political rancor we are enduring. Observing our world from the middle-aged cheap seats, I can recite a litany of reasons to not love what I see. However, as today is Valentine’s Day, I would like to instead share that hope – and youth – springs eternal and is most certainly thriving in a place that has taken many hard hits of late: State College, PA.
Yes, you’ve heard quite a bit of negative rhetoric recently about Penn State. I don’t need to rehash any of the scandal and heartache and loss. But what you may not know is that this coming weekend 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 (http://www.thon.org/) notes that back in 1973 the first dance marathon raised $2,000. Now, nearly forty years later, THON encompasses over 15,000 student volunteers, 700 dancers, and has raised more than $78 million, benefiting The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
Our son Jimmy, who is actively involved in THON, implored us last year to come to State College and see for ourselves what all the fuss was about. I must admit that I was expecting to see an enthusiastic but maybe a bit of a ragtag frenetic jumble of students running around, dancing and singing to current hip hop tunes. Something perhaps 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, 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.
It was an electrifying scene, all accomplished through the love of fifteen thousand student volunteers. This year, on Valentine’s Day, I’m reminded that these students are right now working diligently and preparing for this upcoming next weekend; steadfast in their belief that they can and will help find a cure for pediatric cancer. If you’re so inclined, perhaps on this Valentine’s Day, in lieu of that box of chocolates or dozen roses, you might consider making a donation to THON. For everyone who posts a comment on this blog today (you can just note "Hi" or "Like"), we’ll make a $1 donation to THON.
So, Happy Valentine’s Day Happy Valley and best of luck this coming THON weekend. And of course Happy Valentine’s Day to you too Jimmy – thanks for everything that you and your thousands of student friends will be doing “For The Kids.”