Every year thousands of students take part in the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon. The 46 hour event, which is the biggest weekend of the year for many, takes place in the Bryce Jordan Center and culminates a year of hard work for the students who raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund. The Four Diamonds Fund helps families who are battling pediatric cancer and is paving the way in cancer research. Over 700 Penn State student dancers stay on their feet for the entire weekend, dancing with support of their classmates and the Four Diamonds families.
I covered THON as a student, and danced my senior year, so am the most familiar with the weekend for our photo staff. As a professional this was my second year covering the event and I couldn’t help but smile and laugh as I was roaming the floor photographing. I was hit with squirt guns, and bonked by beach balls as I took more photos than I can count and chatted with some inspirational youngsters. Here are just a few of my favorites from the weekend.
Friday night kicked off the event and the dancers prepped before the 6 pm stand up by stretching and enjoying some time on the ground.
Once everyone stands the dancing and fun begins.
When I entered the BJC on Saturday morning the energy was just as high as the night before as the youngsters ruled the floor, playing games, squirting water guns, kicking beach balls and most of all laughing and forgetting their sicknesses.
Throughout the weekend the line dance is performed. The line dance is a choreographed dance full of news and pop culture from the last year. It helps to keep the dancers stretching and is a staple for each year.
When I spotted this Four Diamonds Child dressed as a lion on stage I started clicking away. When he turned and spotted the Nittany Lion he ran across the stage to a big embrace. He told me afterwards that he loves the Nittany Lion, “he’s all furry and stuff.”
Sunday morning I arrived after the building had already had reached capacity, luckily since I was with the media they allowed me in. Some dancers looked weary, and were struggling as they hit 40 hours of being on their feet. Others seemed unphased. And the Four Diamonds kids, who got some sleep over night, where all about entertaining anyone and everyone.
When Family Hour arrives everyone turns to the stage and secretly knows the weekend is drawing to an end. Four Diamonds Families share their stories, each year more of them ending in success. THON does more for these families then most can understand, inspiring everyone to continue to raise money.
Family hour concludes with the Celebration of Life video, a video that honors those who have lost their battle with pediatric cancer in the last year. Dry eyes are hard to find as everyone embraces to watch the familiar faces flash across the screen.
To reboot the energy to the end the band Go Go Gadjet takes the stage. With their popular cover songs the place was literally jumping, and the kids flocked to the stage.
At 4pm on Sunday afternoon the dancers finally relieve their feet and are able to sit. The final excitement grows as organizations are recognized for how much they raised. Then everyone is on their feet as the grand total is revealed. Slowly from the cents end the overalls raised the total in the air and the Bryce Jordan Center exploded into cheers.
With THON surpassing last years total by 2 million dollars it has put the grand total raised for the Four Diamonds Fund over 100 million dollars.
THON is an experience that no one fully can grasp until you’ve walked into the Bryce Jordan Center, out of the cold State College air on a February weekend, to a building full of warmth, joy and love.