Penn State's THON Raises $10.6 Million

Funds generated from 2012 event smash previous record total. The money is used to help fight pediatric cancer.

Penn State students put their best feet forward over the weekend, raising a record $10.6 million for the fight against pediatric cancer through the school's annual dance marathon.

“THON” is the world's largest student-run philanthropy, with all proceeds going to The Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

The record total came in spite of the recent turmoil at Penn State, which began when a scandal involving a former assistant football coach erupted in early November. The school also had to cope with the death of Hall of Fame former football coach Joe Paterno in January.

The fund-raising efforts of the students against such a difficult backdrop -- and in such a difficult economy -- was not lost on the Paterno family, especially his son, Jay. The former Nittany Lion assistant coach took the THON stage in the Bryce Jordan Center as the event was winding down Sunday and predicted the record total.

“When the storm clouds gathered around campus in November, many ran for the hills,” he said, according to the student Web site Onward State. “But not the students. … You guys stood your ground, you kept up the fight, and later on this afternoon you're going to shock the world.

“If you live to be 100, what you've done here the past two days, weeks, months -- all this time you've put into this -- what you've done will echo in eternity.”

This year's total smashed the previous record of $9.5 million, which was set last year. Since 1973, THON has raised more than $88 million for the fight against pediatric cancer.

More than 700 dancers participated in the marathon, starting Friday afternoon and dancing for the following 46 hours. Tens of thousands of visitors stopped by the arena to check out the action. Also on hand were many of the pediatric cancer patients and survivors who have benefitted from funds raised at THON.

The event concluded at 4 p.m. Sunday.

In the past, Joe Paterno would make a point of stopping by THON with his wife Sue to take the stage and motivate the dancers as only he could. In 2009, he was moved to tears when he said, “I wish the whole world could see and feel what is in this room right now. Love and commitment and the dedication. … It's been 58 years at Penn State. I've never been more proud than right now.”

Though the coach died Jan 22 following a short bout with lung cancer, his presence was still felt at this year's event. Shortly after his passing, Paterno's family requested that in lieu of flowers or gifts, that donations be made in his memory to THON or Pennsylvania Special Olympics.


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