Like a scene out of a Rocky movie…“moralers” coaching them on, massages to loosen up stiff muscles, and an endless supply of ice packs, Penn State Harrisburg students Joe Sadusky and Hana Suders joined 710 dancers at the Bryce Jordan Center in February to participate in the annual tradition of THON, smashing the college’s fundraising goal by raising more than $53,000.
THON is the Penn State student dance marathon that benefits the Four Diamonds Fund and pediatric cancer patients, families, and researchers at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. During the 46-hour marathon, participants are not allowed to sit or stop moving.
This year, Sadusky and Suders fought through weariness, blisters, soreness, and more to eclipse last year’s total raised by some $22,000, setting a new record for the campus, and contributing to THON’s overall total of a record-breaking $12,374,034.46 raised this year.
“My best friend danced last year, and I was by her side the whole time,” Suders said. “Just seeing that was an amazing experience, and I knew then I wanted to experience it myself.”
Like most THON participants, Suders’ motivation to keep on moving was the thought of helping kids with cancer.
Also helpful were the constant support from “moralers” – students whose job at THON is to keep up dancer morale – and the energy boosts that come with THON traditions such as the Saturday Pep Rally, Mail Call (when dancers get cards and letters of encouragement), and the hourly Line Dance – a special dance choreographed to a mash up of the year’s most popular songs.
The welcome and much appreciated physical breathers – like foot care or brief walks around the Jordan Center – also help dancers endure.
Participating in THON does not come without a little pain. About 36 hours in, Suders had blisters, had gotten her sore toes wrapped, had rested each foot on an ice pack, and finally had both feet wrapped, which she said made her feel like she had just started dancing.
Any pain participants experience is minor compared to the gains that THON presents. The THON motto, “For the Kids” or “FTK,” keeps students focused on their goal.
Senior Andrew Mather, who last year danced for Penn State Harrisburg and served as the overall co-chair, chose a different role this year. He was the morale chair, coordinating the people and activities designed to keep the dancers going, and helping all of the other committee chairs throughout the year. Though he was reminded that being an organizer can be stressful, at hour 38 he said, “As soon as I see that number [the grand total amount raised, revealed in THON’s final hour] though, all of those emotions will be tempered. When I see that number, it will have all been worth it.”