Posts tagged ‘THON’
In 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
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
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.
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…)
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
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:
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
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.
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.
Diana Hirsch thought she knew what she was in for. She’d danced in THON before, and she had recently participated in AlumniTHON, which gave her the chance to experience a baby-powder massage again.
Hirsch’s second THON, however, wasn’t quite what she expected. Her previous THON was in 1991, and those 19 years did take a bit of a toll. “I don’t remember there being so many peaks and valleys,” Hirsch ’92 said Sunday morning, after about 33 hours on her feet. “There are so many more ups and downs mentally and physically. And all kinds of aches!”
Her partner, Candace Brown ’00, was also dancing after a long layoff; she had last participated 10 years ago, and she couldn’t believe how much THON had grown in a decade. The two were representing the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group, which had two couples in THON 2010.
The last time Hirsch danced, THON was in White Building and raised less than $1 million for the Four Diamonds Fund. The last time Brown danced, THON was in Rec Hall, and raising $7.8 million, the 2010 total, was unimaginable.
Both women had to deal with more outside factors this time around. Brown, for example, fielded cell-phone calls from her three children, 5-year-old Bria, 4-year-old Casson, and 2 1/2-year-old Mayah. She explained that she was tired from dancing for hours, and Bria said, “Mommy, you need to go to bed. You need to go to sleep and rest.” That made Brown laugh, and she answered, “You’re right, but I can’t do that right now.”
They were a bit of an odd couple. Hirsch didn’t want to have any idea how much time remained, so she adjusted the settings on her iPhone so that she appeared to be in Toyko on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Brown didn’t change a thing; she needed specifics. “I want to know down to the last second what time it is,” she said. “I am not going to be one of those dancers who needs to sit down around 3:50 p.m.” Hirsch got a stack of packages at mail call (see photo at right, by our graphic designer, Jessie Knuth), but Brown, who flew in from Denver, made her family and friends promise to send nothing big. “I travel light,” she said, grinning.
They agreed, however, that they were much less conscious of their appearance than their college-age counterparts. “They’re washing their hair in the sinks in the bathrooms, using hair spray and straightening irons,” Brown said, laughing. “They’re changing clothes five times. Me, I’ve got two shirts.”
And they were of one mind about the most important things: That THON was among the most meaningful experiences of their college years, and that they were thrilled and honored to be back on the floor.
“And we’ve already made plans,” Hirsch said, “to be back here again in 10 years.”
Jessie and I weren’t going to hold them to that, as we were talking at 3:15 a.m. Sunday. For all we knew, they were having some of those fabled hallucinations. But they felt the same way at the end, and given that they weathered 46 hours on their feet as well as—or better than—the students, we won’t be surprised to see them in 2020.
Lori Shontz, senior editor