Penn State students show support for Thon in many ways

Hannah Gowdy was involved with mini-Thon at her high school and when she arrived at Penn State, her goal was to join the largest student-run philanthropy in the world — Penn State’s IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.

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Better known as Thon, the 46-hour dance marathon that raises money for Four Diamonds families impacted by childhood cancer kicked off at 6 p.m. Friday. Gowdy, a senior, was previously on the Donor and Alumni Relations Committee and Communications Committee, then a special event chair and eventual primary chair for her sorority Tri Sigma.

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Now a dancer, Gowdy has seen Thon from behind the scenes, in the stands and on the floor, but she said Saturday her involvement with Thon through Greek life has been her favorite.

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“When you’re at the sorority, you actually have a (Thon) family … to have a deeper understanding,” Gowdy said. “It’s more personal because you actually get to meet these people instead of just hearing their stories, you actually get to know them.”

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Dancer from Tri Sig Hannah Dowdy does the line dance during the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon on Saturday Feb. 18, 2023 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Abby Drey [email protected]

Gowdy also said the 46 hours is different as a dancer. She had stood in the stands of the Bryce Jordan Center before but didn’t have the same “support system” she has this year on the floor.

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“You have people left and right ready to help you at any moment,” Gowdy said.

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Starting Friday evening, Penn State students and community members came to stand with the 707 student dancers and joined them in watching musical performances, speeches, talent shows and other activities on the main stage.

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While many spectators go in and out of the venue through the weekend, Penn State senior Jared Raggi plans to stay upright and awake the full 46 hours.

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While he’s not one of the official dancer couples, Raggi said his friend decided to join him in the Bryce Jordan Center for the entire weekend, so they can support each other and keep each other “in check.”

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Raggi’s favorite part of Thon has been taking trips to the floor to visit his two best friends who are representing their fraternity, Delta Upsilon.

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Keeping him motivated and optimistic is seeing his organization’s fundraising total at the end of Thon. Raggi expects his fraternity to break their personal fundraising total this year, and he said he can’t wait to see their hard work pay off for a good cause.

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Since its inception, Thon has raised over $200 million for the Four Diamonds Fund, and Greek life contributes to that total.

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Posters about Four Diamond Children fill a back hall way at the Bryce Jordan Center during the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon on Saturday Feb. 18, 2023. Abby Drey [email protected]

While students make up the majority of Thon participants, families and Penn State alumni come to visit and support the cause.

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Ric and Amy Sarfert danced together in 1983 and 1985, and they have been together ever since.

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The Sarferts, of State College, returned this year to celebrate their 40th anniversary of dancing and visit their niece who’s on the Thon Communications Committee.

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Ric Sarfert said Thon is a “great way to get the whole Penn State community together,” and he was personally inspired by Tucker Haas’ story he shared on the stage during Thon’s Greek hour.

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Haas is a pediatric cancer survivor who was diagnosed at 2 years old and was a Thon child. He’s now cancer free and is involved with Thon through his fraternity Alpha Tau Omega partnered with Zeta.

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Dancer from Tri Sig Skylar McCullough makes a heart as she does the line dance during the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon on Saturday Feb. 18, 2023 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Abby Drey [email protected]

Skylar McCullough, who’s also dancing and representing Tri Sigma, said she dances to set an example for her younger sorority sisters.

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“One day, they’ll be in our shoes,” McCullough said, “so (we’re) just setting a good example for the future and making good memories.”

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Those who are interested can donate through Thon’s official website at donate.thon.org. This year’s fundraising total will be revealed Sunday, after dancers sit at 4 p.m.

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Jocelynn McKee, 6, dances through bubbles as she plays with Thon volunteers during the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon on Saturday Feb. 18, 2023 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Abby Drey [email protected]

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