Penn State’s Thon draws thousands of dancers for charity

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Having trained for months to keep moving for 46 consecutive hours, hundreds of Penn State University dancers will rekindle a proud philanthropic tradition this weekend with the 41st annual Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, or “Thon.” The weekend event began Friday in the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State’s main University Park campus and is expected to draw more than 15,000 spectators, said Cat Powers, a spokeswoman for the event.

Thon, which debuted in 1973, raised $2,000 that year. In the decades since, it has grown into the world’s largest student-run philanthropy, raising more than $89 million, including nearly $11 million last year.

Proceeds go to the Four Diamonds Fund at Hershey Medical Center and are used to help families and children by covering medical bills not paid for by insurance and by advancing cancer research.

The effort is driven by some 15,000 annual volunteers. Participants from Penn State’s two dozen campuses statewide have written letters soliciting donations, gone on road trips for “canning weekends,” when students solicit donations in canisters outside stores and at busy intersections, and conducted various other fundraisers.

– Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette