**This blog posted has been updated from its 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 that has taken a few hard hits of late: State College, PA.
Yes, you’ve heard quite a bit of negative rhetoric about Penn State. I don’t need to rehash any of the scandal or heartache. But what you may not know is that this next weekend (February 15 – 17, 2013) 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, forty years, THON encompasses over 15,000 student volunteers, 700 dancers, and has raised more than $89 million, benefiting The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
Our son Jimmy, who is actively involved in THON, implored us two years ago 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, 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, as Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m reminded that these students are once again working diligently and preparing for THON 2013; steadfast in their belief that they will help find a cure for pediatric cancer. I’m beyond proud to offer a little shout to our son Jimmy who was selected this year to be one of those 700 enthusiastic dancers. We’ll be traveling back to State College to cheer him on and support the cause.
Happy Valentine’s Day Happy Valley; best of luck this coming THON 2013 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.”
**UPDATE**: THON 2013 was a HUGE success! Was life-changing to see all those students putting themselves through an amazing, grueling, 46 hour experience. In the end, the total raised surpassed $12 MILLION – a new record. THANK YOU everyone who supported this wonderful event – FOR THE KIDS!