DuBOIS — Alaina Shaffer says she still gets chills thinking about her first THON. The energetic scene unfolding in the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State’s University Park campus made a profound impression on her.
“I find it hard to be able to explain it with words if you haven’t been there,” Shaffer, of Clearfield, said. “It’s just totally unexplainable.”
That was three years ago, when Shaffer was a freshman. Now a senior at Penn State DuBois, Shaffer is attending THON again this weekend, but this time she’ll be headed for the dance floor.
Dancing with her for 46 straight hours will be freshman Brynn Morgan and senior Julia Test, both of whom will be attending the event for the first time.
“I’m so excited,” Test, of Curwensville, said. “But I’m so nervous.”
THON is a philanthropic effort by Penn State students to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund, a charitable organization that covers the cost of pediatric cancer treatment for patients at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. It culminates each school year with a 46-hour dance marathon held at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Since its inception 45 years ago, THON has raised nearly $150 million for the fund, according to the organization’s website. Contributing to the effort are dozens of student clubs and organizations from various Penn State campuses.
Penn State DuBois’ THON affiliate, Chair Chanice Britten said, is about 16 members strong. Their fundraising efforts this year include spaghetti dinners and bingo games.
Penn State DuBois contributed $27,616.47 to last year’s THON, which raised a total of $10,045,478.44.
The three students headed to State College to dance this weekend said they got involved with THON for various reasons. Morgan, of Grampian, and Test both said that cancer has personally affected those close to them.
Morgan and Shaffer also said that they joined the Penn State DuBois THON’s group out of a desire to become more involved with the student body.
“I did sports in high school, but I wasn’t really involved in the clubs,” Morgan said.
The three each had their own reasons for applying for spots on the dance floor. This year, more than 700 students are projected to dance the weekend away.
Morgan said she applied thinking it would be an experience far out of the ordinary. Test said she wanted to dance in memory of her grandfather, who she said died recently of cancer, and to show support for family friend Maddox Fish.
Shaffer said she wanted to dance because, with graduation around the corner, this would be her final chance.
“With my continued active involvement in THON, I just knew that this was my last chance. And I knew if I did not do it, I would totally regret it,” she said.
The three will be headed to State College tonight following a send-off at Penn State DuBois. They said they are feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness that hasn’t worn off since they first found out they would be dancing.
“I think it will be worth it,” Morgan said. “I’m excited for sure.”
Britten, who danced in THON for Penn State DuBois last year, had some advice for the three: keep your feet moving to sustain your momentum, and drink plenty of water. And be prepared, she said, to feel the strange mix of emotions that standing on your feet for two days can induce.
“You’re going to feel all types of emotions, and just let them out,” she said.