After months of scandal, Penn State students showed the world a different side of the university.
In its 40 years, Penn State`s annual dance marathon, known as THON, has raised tens of millions to fight pediatric cancer.
After nearly two days on their feet, hundreds of Penn State student dancers finally got a chance to rest as THON 2012 ended Sunday afternoon.
Students raised more than $10.6 million for the Four Diamonds Fund to benefit children with cancer, shattering last year`s record.
Ask any of the hundreds of students who were on their feet for 46 hours, or the thousands in the stands supporting them, this is what they mean when they say, ‘We are Penn State.’
Students came together for Penn State`s annual dance maraTHON, hoping, as the theme said, to brighten every journey, in the fight against childhood cancer.
Mason Dantone, 8, of Bear Creek was diagnosed with a form of kidney cancer at just 4 years old and has been in remission for the past several years.
“The best part? Being here at THON!,” said Mason Dantone. “I`m a survivor.”
“It`s all for the kids. The pain and the soreness will go away, but the memories will definitely last for a lifetime,” said Kristin Jenkins of Turbotville, who was dancing for the Blue Band.
Now in its 40th year, THON takes on even more significance after months of scandal and the loss of long-time football coach Joe Paterno.
The students were dancing for the kids, and in memory of the legendary JoePa, who lost his battle with cancer just last month.
“Absolutely the most resilient group of students that I`ve known. They’ve come through scandal, they’ve come through losing the rock of their institution, Joe Paterno. They’ve come through a lot and they`re here, 46 hours they’ve danced, 46 kids are diagnosed with cancer every day. Those kids don`t get to take a break. These students don`t take a break,” said Tina Jezuit of Jessup, who was a Four Diamonds child after being diagnosed 22 years ago.
THON raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children`s Hospital.
Dancer Vincent Carrano of Pottsville knows just how much of an impact THON has. He was dancing for his sister Lauren, who passed away from cancer in 1996 at age nine.
“It`s the most amazing thing. It`s what got my family by. I`m able to look back on it and say Lauren had the best weekend of her life because of THON and we’ve been coming every since,” said Vincent Carrano of Pottsville.
Jim Bush of Mount Carmel said he appreciates the good thousands of students do, all to help children like his grandson Mario, 5, who was diagnosed with cancer at only 9 weeks old.
“Unbelievable. What an inspiration,” said Jim Bush. “They`ve provided not only the financial aid, but the moral support to help families get through terrible disease.”
After months of negative news out of Penn State, students want to be known for this.
When it came time to reveal the total, it was another record, $10.6 million, proving skeptics wrong who thought the scandal would affect donations to THON.
“If you look around and see 15,000 18 to 22-year-olds dedicating all this time and energy for a greater cause, it really gives you hope for the world,” said dancer Matt Tolerico of Jermyn.
Over the years, THON has raised nearly $90 million to help battle childhood cancer.
The Paterno family has long supported THON. JoePa used to stop by most years and after his death, his family asked that donations be made to THON in his memory.
It seemed Joe had an impact once again. Donations in his name were a big part of the more than $10.6 million raised for THON 2012.