Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Disclaimer (seriously, how many of my blog posts begin with disclaimers?  An inordinate amount, I tell you!  I guess I'm just a careful guy.): I have no affiliation with THON anymore, they're not paying me to say nice things, my views do not necessarily reflect the views of THON, I'm not trying to solicit, but feel free to donate if you want, etc, etc, etc,)

Did you know that one of my favorite numbers is 5,240,385.17?  (Yes, really).  On a related note, in my experience there haven't been too many moments in life when I knew "This is a life changing / shaping experience!"  February 16, 2007 at 9:00 PM exactly, I knew it, because I walked into a scene that looked like this:

This is actually THON 08... THON 07 was also powerful enough that I knew I had to buy a digital camera to record the next year's for myself

A little background first to help you understand.  If you've read this blog, ever, you've probably gathered that I'm a huge Penn State fan and have been my entire life.  It got to the point where I was proselytizing.  In fact, I think that perhaps my friends Lauren and Kristin did end up choosing Penn State due, in part, to my influence.

I gave people all kinds of reasons why Penn State was AWESOME ranging from academics, to football, clubs and activities, and everything in between.  But at 9:00 PM on that Friday night, I found myself texting Lauren and asking, "Are you at THON?"  Turned out she was, and I went to find her and said "Remember when I was giving you all kinds of reasons that you should come to Penn State?  Well if I had known about THIS at that time, this would have been number one."

Basic information about THON:  THON is a dance marathon that started back in 1973.  It has evolved since then and currently stands as a 46 hour dance marathon that takes place every year on the third weekend in February.   About 700 dancers from all across Penn State University take place every year.  Now to be completely honest, there isn't a LOT of real dancing that goes on at THON.  Basically, it's a grueling 46 hours worth of staying awake and fighting to stay on one's feet.  The only reprieve that the dancers get are 10 second rubdowns on what are called the "Slides of Strength."  So, in a span of 46 hours, dancers spend about 45 hours 58 minutes and 40 seconds or so standing.  There IS dancing at least once an hour though as they have hourly line dances. (H/T david06pa)

But why subject one's body to such torture?  That's something that can be answered in three letters-- FTK.  For the kids.  When THON began, it was supposed to support a deserving charity.  Every year since 1977, the Four Diamonds Fund has been that charity.  The Four Diamonds fund supports patients (and their families) in the pediatric cancer ward at Hershey Medical Center.  When a young child with cancer shows up there, the family gets welcomed into the Four Diamonds family and are assured that almost anything that their insurance doesn't cover-- operations, treatments, lodging, food, transportation to and from Hershey-- will be taken care of by the Four Diamonds Fund.  These families come to visit THON every year to share how much the physical, emotional, and financial help means to them.  A few hours before the dancers are finally allowed to sit, some families take the stage usually one family who lost a child to cancer, and one whose child beat it, to share their stories and to thank the kids for their support and what they do all year-round.  One of the important things to recognize about THON is that as driven as the college students are on THON weekend, the kids and their families fight cancer all year round with the same drive and strength that the dancers draw on in hours 45 and 46.

There's so much that makes up THON.  It's an all-year process that climaxes at one weekend in February.  Fundraising starts on October 1 every year and culminates at the end of the weekend with a dramatic reveal... like this one from THON 07 (you'll definitely want to turn your volume down for this-- (H/T to Pituch3))

Hence, 5,240,385.17 being one of my favorite numbers

There is much more to point out... and I could drone on and on (like I haven't already) but the question I have is, why don't we see more events like THON?  As special and unique as THON is, it had humble beginnings because someone had an idea and took it to action.

Gretel and Bijal-- Christian Student Fellowship's dancers for THON 07-- with some wimpy dude who was only there for 30 hours of the 46

I love THON, but as a Christian, I'm somewhat secretly envious.  If I could bottle THON and let people get even one sniff of it, I believe it would show people that passion and excitement can bring greatness.  Let's face it-- THON is doing work that the church wants to be known for, and it's doing it better than most churches.  Organization... passion... success... kindness... caring... community... it's all there.  I encourage you to log onto this weekend to view the live webcast and take a look at the activity going on and pray about how you may be able to get THAT excited about something that you can't do anything BUT spring into action.

Now obviously, just because THON is not a religious organization doesn't mean that Christians aren't involved.  Nor does it mean that THON shouldn't do this kind of work, like the church has a monopoly on it. THON has it's own issues as well, but I'm convinced that those aren't my concern.  The only standard that THON has to meet is its own-- the church needs to meet God's.  Are we?

Take a look at this description of the early church from Acts 4:32-35:

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

And how about this from Paul? (Ephesians 2:8-10)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So I ask again, are we doing that today?  If not, I believe we still can and should.  If we look at THON as a fantastic example of what can be done without God's explicit guidance, imagine the POWER that would be added if we include Him in the plan.

THON runs from 6:00 PM Friday night through 4:00 PM Sunday.  The money total should be announced by 4:45 PM I'd imagine.  Anything you need to know about THON, including its history and how to donate can be found at