2019 THON Polar Support Collage

Penn State Mont Alto Dancers Gear Up for THON Weekend 2019

Penn State Mont Alto will send four dancers and about fifty supporters to participate in THON Weekend, Feb. 15-17. The annual marathon provides support and funding for children’s cancer research as well as patients in partnership with Four Diamonds, an organization that provides aid for families at Penn State Children’s Hospital.

“When I first think of THON Weekend, I’m overtaken by butterflies in my stomach and an overall joy,” said dancer Jacie Buller, a Human Development and Family Studies student from Hanover, Pa. “THON is indescribable. It takes my breath away every time I think about it.”

During the event dancers, student volunteers, Four Diamonds families, and supporters will gather in State College’s Bryce Jordan Center for 46 hours of no-sitting and no-sleeping to take a stand against childhood cancer.

Buller’s enthusiasm for THON Weekend is equally matched by the other dancers. Human Development and Family Studies student Cortney Group of Gettysburg, Engineering student Noah Kendrick of Hanover, and Business Management student Braydin Sones of Frederick can’t wait for the moment they step onto the stage to dance “For the Kids.”

“I am so excited for THON. It truly is the most inspiring and life-changing weekend. I’ve been counting down the days,” said Group.

The weekend will culminate the dancers’ fundraising efforts as THON co-captains. Throughout the school year, they have coordinated and participated in fundraising activities by collecting money through letters sent to residents and businesses, asking for corporate donations, hosting a “Mr. Mont Alto” pageant, a dodgeball tournament, Dollars for Diamonds (a date auction), and a winter formal, to name a few.

They also helped the Franklin County Penn State Alumni Chapter and Mont Alto Alumni Society with the first annual Polar Bear Splash in December, when 65 participants took a chilly plunge in the lake of nearby Cowans Gap State Park, raising more than $12,500. Next year’s Plunge is already being planned for Dec. 8, 2019.

The amount raised has not yet been totaled and will include a donation from Gettysburg Rocks, a music festival that supports the Mont Alto benefitting THON organization, each February. This year, the event is scheduled for Feb. 8-10 and will feature 130 bands in 17 venues around Gettysburg and Hanover. The schedule is available at gburgrocks.com.

The dancers said they hope to spend an evening at one of the venues enjoying music, speaking with the crowd, and spending time with Mont Alto’s THON family, the Lightners of Carlisle, Pa. Austin Lightner, 11, underwent chemotherapy for pediatric leukemia.

A variety of reasons drive the dancers to support THON.

“I wanted to dance because it allows me to be a part of something bigger than myself. We are one big community standing together for one cause, to find a cure. I am so proud to be a part of something so special,” said Group.

“I THON for all of the children who have battled, are battling and will continue to battle cancer,” said Sones. “I THON for the Lightner family and to represent Mont Alto.”  He also dances in recognition of his sister. “As a leukemia survivor, she went through many years of hardships, so being able to dance for 46 hours will be a special way to give back to her,” he said.

Kendrick began THONing in high school after his friend Tommy was diagnosed with cancer. “We started up our high school’s own mini-THON, “he said.

“One of the reasons I chose Penn State is to carry on the fight for Tommy at a higher level. Now, I THON for all the families and friends of kids just like Tommy but, most importantly, for the kids themselves,” he said.

In preparation to dance for 46 hours straight, the students said they are working out regularly and eating healthy foods, but physical strength will only be half the battle. To succeed, they will rely on each other.

“There is only so much you can do,” said Sones. “Exercising daily and eating healthy will help, but so much of it will be the mental fatigue that comes along with being awake for such a long period of time. Having a strong support system between each other and with our organization will help,” he said.

“When I think about THON Weekend, I am completely filled with excitement and happiness,” said Kendrick. “I’m so ready to represent Mont Alto and have an amazing weekend with everyone that is there. Also, I’m slightly nervous because I know it’s going to hurt,” he said.

THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, has raised more than $150 million and helped more than 4,000 Four Diamonds families since its inception in 1973.

The Penn State Mont Alto Benefitting THON organization can accept donations through February 16, 2019. Mail a check to THON, Penn State Mont Alto, 1 Campus Drive, Mont Alto, PA 17237 or go online to THON Donor Drive.