Posts tagged ‘THON’

Have a THON Story?

THORG_63The Penn Stater is seeking THON tales! Alumni who participated in THON at any time in its history are invited to submit their stories to The Penn Stater magazine for an upcoming feature. The magazine is interested in hearing from those who danced, served on a committee, worked behind the scenes, or took part in any other way. Alumni are encouraged to submit anecdotes and other short memories (no longer than 250 words) about any aspect of THON: a canning trip, the preparations for the long weekend, and memories from the weekend itself are just a few examples.

Whether heartfelt, funny, or quirky, the best of the tales will appear in an upcoming issue of The Penn Stater. Stories can be e-mailed to or sent to The Penn Stater magazine, Hintz Family Alumni Center, University Park, PA 16802.

July 10, 2015 at 1:27 pm Leave a comment

Lights Camera Cure

LCC 2015 TotalIn our May/June issue, Gary Werkheiser ’81 Bus talked to us about the Los Angeles Alumni Chapter’s benefit known as Lights Camera Cure: The Hollywood Dance Marathon. The event, which raised over $101,000 this spring, has been a labor of love for the PSULA Chapter president and his wife Valerie Hudak Werkheiser ’81 Bus. “The first year, we hosted about 80 people at our house, which is near the Hollywood sign, and raised a couple thousand dollars,” says Werkheiser, adding that it wasn’t until after that event when they decided to create a formal committee. “My wife and I, together with a group of younger alumni, came up with the idea to do a miniature version of THON, but put a Hollywood spin on it.”

Now in its fourth year, the Hollywood Dance Marathon has evolved into, well, a Hollywood production. The six-hour dance marathon happens in a historic nightclub named the Avalon located in the heart of Hollywood. There’s non-stop entertainment from DJs to dance performances. There’s press. And a red-carpet procession before the event. And those in attendance—about 1,000 people—could hit up the open bar, photo booths, and silent auction.

And, naturally, there were some celebs. Lindsay Arnold from Dancing with the Stars taught the line dance. Actor Ty Burrell ’97 A&A sent a video message for the group, which they aired on screen. And Tom Bradley ’78 Bus, ’86 MS H&HD—who is now with the UCLA football staff—popped in, staying until the very end. “He asked if he could hold up one of the numbers at the final reveal,” says Werkeiser.

But underneath all of this glitz and glam is, of course, the Four Diamonds Fund and helping kids with cancer. Dancers raised a minimum of $300 each to participate and didn’t sit down during the duration. There was a family time, and cancer survivors and their families spoke to the crowd. Proceeds benefitted THON, but they also went to programs at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, which helps to fight pediatric cancer in the local community. “Our alumni base out here is much smaller than back east,” says Werkheiser, adding that this event really connects younger alumni with older alumni. “But the Hollywood Dance Marathon is getting bigger every year.” To date, the event has raised nearly $300,000.

Amy Downey, senior editor

May 4, 2015 at 11:25 am Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — April 7, 2014

What is “Should I watch Jeopardy tonight?” This answer is “yes,” if you want to see a fellow Penn Stater compete for top honors on the classic TV quiz show. Michelle Leppert ’92 of Danvers, Mass., will begin what we hope is a long run of success when Jeopardy starts a new week of shows Monday night.

A big night in the Big House: Michigan announced Monday that the Nittany Lions’ visit to Michigan Stadium on Oct. 11 will be a 7 p.m. kickoff, making it the first Big Ten night home game in Wolverine history. Of course, Penn State and Michigan have some history playing under the lights, including memorable home wins at Beaver Stadium in 2010 and 2013. As for the Big House, there were temporary lights up for the 3:30 kickoff back in 1994. Hopefully you remember how that one ended.

Joining the dance: THON’s spread isn’t just limited to the mini-THONs held at a growing number of middle and high schools. The Alumni Association’s Washington-Greene Counties Chapter recently held its “We, too, Can Dance” charity social. Inspired by Dance Marathon, the event raised $4,750 for the Four Diamonds Fund.

An honor for Mary Jo: The United States Basketball Writers Association announced over the weekend a new award will be named for Mary Jo Haverbeck ’76g, the women’s sports media pioneer who died in January. The Mary Jo Haverbeck Award will honor those who provide special service to writers covering women’s basketball.

Ryan Jones, senior editor


April 7, 2014 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

Why We Dance: The Story of THON

A documentary screening doesn’t sound like the first thing a college student would do at 10 p.m. on a Friday. So when I saw a plethora of THON student volunteers pour into the State Theatre on Friday night––many sporting dresses, high heels, ties, and slacks, no less––you could say I was surprised.

Students at the Bryce Jordan Center make the trademark diamond symbol during THON weekend — an image captured in the documentary that will debut this Thursday.

But the featured documentary,Why We Dance: The Story of THON, helps to explain what 15,000 Penn State students devote themselves to every year––the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, Penn State’s Interfraternity / Panhellenic Dance Marathon (otherwise known as THON). That’s a reason to dress up.

Why We Dance chronicles the year-round efforts put toward Four Diamonds families and the 46-hour dance marathon, which, since 1977, has raised about $88 million dollars for pediatric cancer.

THON is a culture of its own. If you walk down College Avenue and see dozens of people sporting Penn State shirts and sweatpants, you’ll see that many people wearing THON gear, too. I recently noticed that almost 200 of my Facebook friends posted the THON 2013 promo video, especially when THON “captains” were selected. The energy of these students involved is palpable; Kevin O’Connor, a Rules and Regulations captain sitting next to me in the State Theatre on Friday night, agreed with a laugh that THON volunteers are “a different breed” of people––it’s like they’re perpetually over-caffeinated and just excited about life.

Right before the film began, I heard a student volunteer blurt out that (more…)

September 26, 2012 at 10:01 am 2 comments

THON: ‘Best All-Night Dance Party,’ Says Pittsburgh Magazine

Back when I covered Penn State sports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I routinely heard from readers who thought we were devoting too much space to the Nittany Lions. I always explained how many Penn State alumni live in Allegheny County, and I added that in any case, given that Penn State was only three hours away, it deserved coverage anyhow. Sometimes, the readers came around to my way of thinking.

I can’t imagine that anyone in my hometown is complaining about this, though. In its annual Best of the ’Burgh issue, Pittsburgh Magazine looks two and a half hours east (thank you, Route 22 upgrades) to name its “Best All-Night Dance Party.” That’s right, THON.

You  have to scroll down here to see the full entry, which starts, “Strangely fitting that of all the ’70s dance parties, only THON survived,” and ends with this: “Only students may dance, though anyone is eligible to donate. No velvet ropes here.”

Lori Shontz, senior editor

July 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm Leave a comment

Follow Along During THON

This photo from Penn State Public Information shows students preparing the floor for THON. They started at 5 a.m. Friday.

Earlier today, a couple of us were trying to figure out what percentage of the student body is participating in THON, which officially gets underway at 6 p.m. Friday—in a little less than two hours. We’re not sure, but we’re guessing between a third and a half of the students at the University Park campus are involved somehow—dancers, volunteers, cheering on from the stands—and there are plenty of students from other campuses here for the big event.

And of course the THON families—children and their parents who are being helped by the Four Diamonds Fund, the reason 700 students will be dancing for 46 hours this weekend at the Bryce Jordan Center—are in town, too.

If you can’t be there, there are still plenty of ways to follow along. Here are some of the best:

The Daily Collegian’s reporters are blogging here, and the staff at is doing the same thing here.

On Twitter: follow the Collegian (@dailycollegian), Onward State (@thonwardstate), and anything with the hashtag #thon2011.

And the College of Communications is again dispatching more than 150 students to cover the event, including a live webstream. You can find all of that coverage here.

Last year, THON raised more than $7.8 million for the Four Diamonds Fund. Check back at the end of the weekend for more details from this year’s event.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

February 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm Leave a comment

Our Intern: Center Stage at THON

Oralis before her haircut

As a member of THON’s rules and regulations committee, our intern, senior Oralis Ramos is usually in the background at THON. But this year, she found herself on center stage last weekend as part of a group of students who had their hair cut and donated to Wigs for Kids. Here is her story:

I have always known that I had a half sister about my age, but my father had lost touch with her. Just over a year ago, I had an intense urge to meet her, and my father tracked her down in January 2009. Unbelievably, Emnie was scheduled to have surgery the very next day to remove a cancerous tumor. It was very emotional, and that night we talked for over an hour. She told me she was scared about the surgery, but that it was some sort of miracle that brought us together at this point and time.

Thankfully, her surgery went well, and the follow-up chemotherapy and radiation did, too. She also told me about a promise she made to herself while undergoing the treatment: If her treatment was successful and she was cured, then she would donate her hair to kids with cancer. Like me, she has had long hair all her life, and felt apprehensive, but this was something she had to do. Hearing her inspired me to want to do the same.

Oralis after her haircut

I applied to Wigs for Kids, and I was notified that I would get the great opportunity to get my hair cut during THON on stage. Saturday afternoon, I had 12 inches of my hair cut off. It was breathtaking to see the all kids and dancers looking at the stage. As a little girl I always had long hair, and I remember how fun it was to brush and style. It made me happy to know that another little girl can have that feeling back and not be self-conscious because she doesn’t look like the other kids.

After the initial cutting on stage, my hair was styled by a professional and I am now sporting a “bob” that comes down to my chin. It is definitely a different look, but I love it. Plus, looking into the crowd and seeing all the smiling faces let me know that it was 100 percent worth it.

February 26, 2010 at 4:00 pm 3 comments

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