Dancing For a Cure


Video courtesy of THON Organization

If you ask any Lambda Chi member at Penn State University what their favorite philanthropic event is, they would all, without hesitation, tell you the same thing: THON.

For most of us, though, THON is nothing more than a made-up word. But for the participants, and more so the families affected by the event, it takes on a life of its own.

THON began humbly in 1973 as a way for students to give back to their community.  Never would the THON community dream it would become the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.  Just last year, THON raised 9,770,332.32 dollars benefitting Four Diamonds at Penn State Children’s Hospital to help fight against childhood cancer.

So what is THON, you may be asking? Maybe you have heard of dance marathons at other universities, but Penn State’s version puts all others to shame (coming from an IU grad who fully understands the reach of a dance marathon).

Many Lambda Chi members describe THON as one of the most rewarding experiences during their college career.

To break it down, the THON organization collects donations all year until the moment in February which brothers and other participants eagerly await: the “46-hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon”.

During the marathon, “dancers” engage in many different activities, such as a talent show put on by the Four Diamond children and a famous line dance, which takes place every year.

The Lambda Chi brothers are a strong and vital part of THON each year. During the most recent THON (Feb. 17), the Zeta chapter finished second in donations, not only among Greek organizations, but organizations across campus.  But as was said before, this is something brothers do not joke around about.

“We really take this event seriously and before I even came here, it has been instilled in us that THON is something a Lambda Chi doesn’t joke around with,” said Tommy Martin, High Alpha. “So as a community and a brotherhood, we really get together and we will go canning; it’s just awesome, and it’s kind of a shared belief between everyone that this something we take seriously and we are going to go for it.”

Along with the help of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, the Zeta chapter raised 222,557.60 dollars towards children in need. The Lambda Chi brothers nominated four seniors as their “dancers” who danced for the entire 46 hours and were able to interact with the kids.

In addition to raising money, brothers “adopted” three children from the children’s hospital in order to help their families with medical expenses.  One of the adopted kids, Trent Golden, is now officially cancer-free, following treatments entirely funded by the Zeta chapter’s efforts.

Though Martin is just a sophomore, THON has affected him in more ways than he can describe.  He vividly remembers his first THON last year, and his favorite part: the final four hours of the event, better known as the “Final Four”.

“It gets a little bit sadder too because it is family hour where a lot of families come out and share their stories and that kind of pushes me to make it to the end,” said Martin.  “It’s pretty heart-warming to see families tell their stories and you get to see actual patients; it’s tough to see for sure, and it can get emotional, but it’s really meaningful.”

As Martin continues his journey as High Alpha, THON will always hold a special place in his heart, as it does for all dancers. Once you THON, you don’t go back.