February is big in Happy Valley, thanks to a 4-letter word: THON.
In the same year as Growing Tree Toys opened its store here in State College, 1973, a group of Penn State students held the school’s first Dance Marathon, with 34 dancers. To quote from the history section of the THON website:
“The first Dance Marathon was held in held Penn State’s HUB ballroom on Friday, February 2nd, 1973. Thirty-nine couples paid $10 to participate in the 30-hour competition that began at 6:00pm. Each couple earned one point for every minute they danced and an additional point for each dollar they raised. … The original planning committee was wary of promising too much, and warned the BCARC not to expect more than twenty dollars. When the first ever Dance Marathon came to an end, 17 couples were still standing and more than $2,000 had been raised.”
THON’s goal is profound: fighting to conquer childhood cancer. (Hence its slogan: “For the Kids.”) Since its inception THON has raised $61 million, benefiting The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Children’s Hospital (since 1977). More than 2,000 families have received financial as well as emotional support thanks to THON. You can read more here about some of these families and how THON has helped them at such a difficult time in their lives.
THON is now a full two-day affair, and is the largest and most successful student-run philanthropic event in the country. Having outgrown three prior locations, in 2007 THON moved to the Bryce Jordan Center, home of Penn State’s basketball teams. Now 15,000 can pack the stands to root for the 700 dancers and special kids and families.
A full year of events, like the Family Carnival, various fundraisers and the THON 5K all lead up to the special weekend in mid-February. For 48 hours there is live music, a fashion show, Mail Call (where letters and care packages are delivered to the dancers), and yes, a whole lot of dancing.
As Growing Tree Toys strives to provide the best in educational toys for kids, we appreciate the infinite support of our community, Penn Staters past and present and all involved in the THON efforts.
THON has a unique theme each year, with “Love Belongs Here” for Feb. 19-21, 2010, and will look to surpass its amazing 2009 total of $7,490,133.87 raised. Learn more and donate online at THON.org.
(Photos by Annemarie Mountz of Penn State . Thank you!)