The diseases that kill the most children in the United States are childhood cancers. Thanks to medical research, as many as to 75 percent of the children with cancer can be cured. However, certain forms of pediatric cancer have proven to be so resistant to treatment that, a cure is still elusive and 2,300 children and teens will die from cancer this year.  

Since 1977, Penn State students have come together to change this.

The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, affectionately known as THON, is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. It is a yearlong effort to raise funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer.  Each year, Penn State students spend countless hours raising money for pediatric cancer. This yearlong effort culminates one weekend every February with a 46 hour no-sitting and no-sleeping dance marathon, known as THON Weekend. Students are chosen by their fraternities, sororities, club sports teams, and other student organizations to represent their organizations’ THON children and dance for 46 hours.

Each organization has THON children that are part of the THON’s sole beneficiary: the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

In 2014, I had the honor of being selected by my sorority, Pi Beta Phi, to be one of the four dancers at THON 2014. I stood for 46 hours with 700 other Penn State students by my side. During the last four hours my ankles were so swollen that I could hardly walk. But this discomfort was minimal when compared to the hardships faced by these children and their families.

One of my fondest memories is from family hour – the 42nd hour – when families speak about their experiences being a THON family and their child being a Four Diamonds patient. With a quiver in her voice, one mother explained that through the efforts of the Penn State students her faith in humanity had been restored.

Last year THON raised a record-breaking $13.34 million and since 1977, the event has raised more than $114 million.

For me, the most remarkable aspect of THON is that it is entirely organized and run by students. More than 15,000 Penn State students recognize a need to raise awareness and funds in an effort to find a cure. Students from different backgrounds and groups coming together to support one common goal is truly inspirational.

THON 2015 is this weekend, February 20-22. To donate visit: http://donate.thon.org/