Beaver campus students dance in Penn State's THON

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They danced the night away, and then some.

Penn State students danced for 46 hours to raise money for pediatric cancer; the dancers included 24 who traveled from Penn State Beaver in Centre to the main campus to raise a record-breaking $15,403.38 for THON.

Students from the main campus and all of the branch campuses raised a total of $13,343,517.33 at the 2014 dance marathon held Feb. 21-23. The money goes to The Four Diamonds Fund that supports children battling cancer at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Only about 700 students get to dance at THON, and one of them was Audrey Zanath, a sophomore education major from Aliquippa.

“I loved it,” Ms. Zanath said. “I didn’t get as tired as I thought I would. I got tired early on — at about 12 hours, but then I got over it. The weekend was all about the children.”

Some of the patients and their siblings came to THON “and the children loved it too. My partner and I played with a little girl” but she wasn’t sure if she was a patient or a sibling.

Ms. Zanath’s dance partner was Matthew Downing of Elgin, Ill., a junior science major at the Beaver campus.

“It’s definitely an honor to be picked as a dancer,” said J. Parker Goolsby, the Penn State Beaver residence life coordinator who took 24 students to Happy Valley. His contingent had two dancers. So what was the role of the other 22?”

“They provide support for the dancers," he said, explaining that the morale boosters cheer on the dancers and deliver balloons and tennis balls provided by the alumni. The balls are used for mini-massages.

Mr. Goolsby said he got tired though he never danced. His job was mostly to transport the morale boosters back and forth between their motel and the dance floor.

A native of Tennessee, Mr. Goolsby is a not a Penn State alum. This year’s trip was his third visit to THON. Last year he took two friends “and they enjoyed it too.”

A disc jockey plays songs during THON, including the hit and Grammy award-winning song, “Get Lucky”. Each hour there is a “morale line” which is a line dance geared to rejuvenate spirits, he said.

Though dancers do not dance every minute of every hour, sitting and lying down are prohibited. There are no naps, but bathroom breaks are permitted, and plenty of water is provided to prevent dehydration.

The Beaver campus, with 750 students, broke last year’s fundraising record, which was $15,000.

Dancers are picked on many factors, including their own fundraising efforts, Mr. Goolsby said. They had to raise at least $500. More than half of Beaver students' money was raised while canning — collecting money at intersections. The dancers put in at least 18 hours of canning. Students also collect money from friends and family.

Last fall, the Beaver campus had a 12-hour “mini-THON,” and Ms. Zanath and Mr. Downing emerged as favorites.

This was Ms. Zanath’s first participation in THON, but she’s sure it won’t be her last. She’s transferring to the main campus next fall, where she thinks it’s unlikely she’ll be a dancer, but she’s hoping to take an active role on the morale committee.


Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.

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