2005 Dance Marathon - Thoughts from a Dancer

Thon is really a culture at Penn State. It has gone above and beyond the simple fundraiser it once was. It is a form of life here at Penn State. Many, including myself, have feared that perhaps this once good cause has turned into a way for Greek Life to compete. After my experience this past year as both Thon chair and dancer, my opinion has truly changed.

When I set forth, along with Brother Wolf and Lisa Beckman of Undergraduate Student Leaders, I was nervous about this undertaking. Thon: The world’s largest student-run philanthropy. I am sure as alumni, you can remember the amazing work this program does. Thon raises money to help cover the costs of medical expenses for children suffering with cancer. In true Theta Chi spirit, we were ambitious. We set a goal that towered over the previous year’s totals. We wanted to more than double what we had been raising. Perhaps just as ambitious, we decided to choose our dancers not simply on money raised but on their commitment to the cause.

After all of the extremely successful canning trips, we were pleased to discover that we would have 4- count ‘em- 4 dancers representing Theta Chi and our partner organizations, Undergraduate Student Leaders and the Service Learning Coordinators. I don’t think any of us could have been more pleased. Our totals, however, would not be fully revealed until after Thon.

After tallying the participation points, I was chosen, and gladly accepted, to dance for Thon this year. The feeling of fear and excitement would not fill me for the next couple of weeks and would gradually fill until the fateful weekend. Many gave suggestions on how to prep. I wasn’t sure what would be harder: standing or not sleeping. (For the readers interested, that question will be dramatically answered shortly).

OK. It finally came. As much as I tried to ignore the fact that Thon was fast approaching, it was here. Ironically, I got no sleep the night before. I couldn’t. I was too excited and nervous. Thon is something that has no precedence. You have no way to understand the pain you will feel that will represent the pain that children with cancer feel all the time.

The advisor for USL brought me over to the side of Rec Hall, along with my dancer partner Lisa, and we waited patiently for them to allow us into the building. I sat anxiously alongside all of the other dancers, placing on my dancer shirt inscribed with “Hope. Love. Thon”. Moralers took to the front of the room and did their best to get us excited. We heard the stories of Thon children who had fought and won the battle. We remembered those who had lost. The human tunnel was amazing. We ran through all of our friends and family to reach the front of Rec Hall. It was really quite moving to have so much support.

I sat on the floor and patiently waited for the marathon to begin. As soon as it did, I was ecstatic. I t was great having my friends right by my side the entire time. It was also great to have my parents up supporting me This year, several of the brothers served on Thon committees which enabled them to be on the floor more often. I did very well the entire time, not letting the intense pain in my feet get to me. After about 35 hours, I started getting delirious, talking about random subjects and blacking out for brief periods. This, juxtaposed to the extricating pain in my feet, was not a big deal. Soon, I began to feel feverish and I was taken to the EMTs. I discovered that my temperature was high which wasn’t nearly as disconcerting as the red lines that ran on the side of my legs. The EMTs at about the 44th hour pulled me off the floor. They insisted to take me to the ER immediately, but I refused to go until the end.

I was put in a wheelchair and taken to the front of the stage to watch the families talk about their experiences. After watching a video montage of all of the children who had passed away, which included our Thon child ,Craig, I couldn’t help but cry. Thon truly does make a difference. Thon has given life to so many. If we made a difference in only one person, it was worth it. The kids that surrounded us on the floor the entire weekend were amazing. They were our encouragement to keep going. The children are simply remarkable.

After Thon was over, I was wheeled away to the ambulance bay. Before I was taken outside, I was surrounded by the families of the Thon children. They were thanking me for my hard work. I simply shook my head and said “No. Thank you”. Those children are my inspiration.

After it was all over, I was told that we had surpassed our goal and more than doubled what we had made the previous year. Our organization’s commitment to the cause was unprecedented. It takes true heart to be able to affect such change in the world. We did just that.

If you are interested in donating, feel free to contact our newly elected Thon chair, Josh Block. With your donations, we can find a cure.

Scott Harding