Penn State THON

Penn State THON™ and Four Diamonds: Year-Long Fundraiser for Childhood Cancer

Whether you call Pennsylvania home or live across the country, there are countless ways to positively impact the lives of children battling pediatric cancer. Make a difference by taking part in Four Diamonds’ mission today.

What Is Penn State THON™?

The Penn State Dance Marathon or THON™ is an organization led by students at The Pennsylvania State University. Over 16,500 students participate each year in what has become the largest student-run philanthropic event worldwide. Throughout the year, supporters and volunteers host various events to raise awareness and funds to help conquer childhood cancer.

This marathon dance event lasts 46 hours, and students must remain on their feet throughout the event. Every year, the students create a new line dance for the marathon, teach it to all attendees and repeat the dance at the beginning of every hour. There are also performances and chances for Four Diamonds families to interact with the students throughout the event.

Everything leading up to and during the dance marathon helps support children undergoing cancer treatment. From 5K races to Harvest Days, there will be many fun ways to build excitement for the cumulative dance event.

When Did THON™ Start?

THON™ began in 1973 when a group of Penn State students sought ways to give back to their local communities. During the first year of THON™, 78 students danced for 30 hours to raise over $2,000. In 1977, Four Diamonds became the sole Penn State THON™ beneficiary. Through this partnership, Four Diamonds and Penn State have provided crucial financial, emotional and physical support to children fighting cancer and their families.

Since Four Diamonds became the sole beneficiary in 1977, THON™ has raised over $236 million for childhood cancer patients and their families at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. As supporters dance for a cure, they are benefitting Four Diamonds’ mission to inspire hope and conquer childhood cancer.

Why Is THON™ 46 Hours?

When THON™ first began in 1973, it was a 30-hour dance marathon with dancers competing against one another to see who remained standing the longest. The marathon was an instant success, causing organizers to extend it to 48 hours in 1974.

In 2007, THON™ moved to the Bryce Jordan Center to accommodate hundreds of dancers. With this change in location came a shift in duration, and the marathon dance became 46 hours long instead of 48. Switching to 46 hours gave students a few more hours of recovery before school the next day and gave the venue time to set up for other events.

Today, THON™ begins on Friday evening and officially ends on Sunday afternoon. After 46 hours of dancing, all participants can sit and rest as event hosts announce the annual fundraising total. While 46 hours is still a significant amount of time to stand, it’s important to note that safety teams are on-site during the event to ensure all dancers, families and other participants remain safe.

When Does THON™ Take Place Each Year? What Happens During THON™ Weekend?

Each February THON™ weekend occurs, which is a no-sitting and no-sleeping 46-hour dance marathon held at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, Pennsylvania. Families and student volunteers experience memorable moments while making a lasting difference in the life of each Four Diamonds child battling cancer.

THON™ is an action-packed event with multiple performances in addition to dancing for a cure. Some of the events that take place during THON™ weekend are:

  • The line dance
  • Stage acts and speakers
  • Kids’ fashion and talent show
  • Kids’ mail call
  • Athlete hour and pep rally
  • Total reveal

Where Does THON™ Fundraising Go? What Is Four Diamonds’ Relationship With THON™ and Penn State?

The monetary funds raised by THON™ help cover the costs that Four Diamonds families face when undergoing cancer treatment at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. Along with contributing funds to help with medical bills that insurance doesn’t cover, THON™ also helps support top-tier research at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital and Penn State College of Medicine.

Thanks in part to the support and funds from THON™, Four Diamonds can cover 100% of an eligible patient’s out-of-pocket expenses. Additional ways Four Diamonds benefits families with the funds from THON™ includes supporting more than 30 specialty care providers to serve the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs of patients and families. This includes Child Life specialists, a child psychologist, music therapists, art therapists, nurse specialists, a genetic counselor, a nutritionist and a pharmacist, just to name a few.

Out of every dollar donated, Four Diamonds uses 85 cents to positively impact the lives of childhood cancer patients and their families. These funds help ensure children receive the support and care they need during and after their battle. After these needs are completely covered, funds are also allocated to cancer research for safer treatments and cures so that one day, we will dance in celebration of a cure for all childhood cancers.

In other words, when you get involved, you’re helping Penn State fight for a cure.

History of THON™ Fundraising by Year

Every year, thousands of Penn State students dedicate hundreds of hours to fundraise for THON™ and support cancer treatments for Four Diamonds children and their families. Below are the past 12 years of THON™ fundraising totals.

  • 2013: $13,374,034.46
  • 2014: $13,343,517.33
  • 2015: $13,026,653.23
  • 2016: $9,770,332.32
  • 2017: $10,045,478.44
  • 2018: $10,151,663.93
  • 2019: $10,621,683.76
  • 2020: $11,696,942.38
  • 2021: $10,683,078.62
  • 2022: $13,756,374.50
  • 2023: $15,006,132.46
  • 2024: $16,955,683.63

What Makes THON™ Unique as a Fundraiser for Childhood Cancer Patients?

THON™ is a multifaceted organization striving to make a positive difference in the lives of children diagnosed with pediatric cancer and their families. Unlike other organizations that utilize some student support, THON™ is entirely student-run. By allowing students to take an active role in THON™, they learn more about the importance of charitable giving and foster a lifetime of philanthropy.

While THON™ is most famous for the dance marathon in February, there are several ways for people to get involved throughout the year. Events such as 5Ks, Harvest Days and hair donations enable volunteers and Four Diamonds children to interact and have fun while supporting a worthy cause. Many THON™ students build lasting relationships with Four Diamonds families and become a source of strength as their children undergo treatment and recovery.

Given the unique history of THON™, it has attracted support from various sources throughout the years. Penn State alumni, friends, Four Diamonds families and community support have helped THON™ become the huge event it is today. With this constant support, THON™ can fund the financial support Four Diamonds provides and multiple research efforts to find a cure.

Penn State THON and Four Diamonds help fight childhood cancer

How to Fundraise for Cancer Patients through THON™ and Four Diamonds

As the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, THON™ offers several ways for others to join the mission and positively impact Four Diamonds patients and families. One way you can make a difference is by hosting your own fundraising events. Our website makes it easier than ever to create your own fundraising page and host an event or fundraiser to support the THON™ community.

Anyone can contribute and join the mission. THON™ welcomes parents, siblings and other supporters to join together and become part of THON™ Nation. There are even several alumni groups dedicated to dancing and working together to find a cure for childhood cancer. Also, anyone from friends to alumni of THON™ can host fundraisers ranging from sports watch parties and bake sales to help raise funds and awareness for THON™.

Whether you are fundraising through your school, community, family or as an individual, you have multiple support avenues for monetary Penn State THON™ donations:

  • General donations: If you would like to show your support but do not have a specific student or organization you would like to benefit from your gift, you can make a general donation that Four Diamonds will use to support a family in need.
  • Credited donations: Support student volunteers who are fundraising on behalf of THON™ by directly donating to their organization or a specific volunteer.
  • THON™ Nation: THON™ Nation is for individuals who are not Penn State students but would still like to spread the mission of THON™ across the globe.
  • In-kind donations via Supply the Fight: Supply the Fight is a collection drive for high-demand supplies. You can purchase and ship donations to the THON™ office through the online registry or buy and drop gifts off in person.
  • Gift card initiative: Purchase a gift card from a pre-determined list of participating vendors for THON™ volunteers to use toward purchasing items we could not receive as a donation. The gift card initiative helps lower THON™ internal costs and can buy meals for THON™ participants or supplies for THON™ athletic events.

To learn more about how you can make a difference in the lives of children with pediatric cancer through Penn State THON™ fundraising, view our Take Action page today!

Make a Life-Saving Donation to THON™ and Help Children Conquer Cancer

Whether you contribute to THON™ or participate as a student in the dance marathon in Pennsylvania, you’ll raise life-saving funds and awareness for children’s cancer research and treatment. Each donation is a gift of hope to all Four Diamonds children that they will overcome their disease. When you donate to THON™, you support life-saving treatment and cancer research around the globe. Make a donation here or explore other ways to make a difference today.

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