Dancers step out for Thon at Penn State

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Having trained for months to keep moving for 46 consecutive hours, hundreds of Penn State University dancers will rekindle a proud philanthropic tradition tonight with the start of the 41st annual Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, or "Thon."

The weekend event begins at 6 p.m in the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's main University Park campus and is expected to draw more than 15,000 spectators, said Cat Powers, a spokeswoman for the event.

It can be viewed live on the web at webcast.thon.psu.edu.

The two-day marathon culminating at 4 p.m. Sunday is the fruition of thousands of hours of work on a charity passed down over the years through generations of Penn State students.

"We're really excited," Ms. Powers said this afternoon.

Organizers hope that on Saturday the 710 dancers inside the Jordan Center will be joined by others across Pennsylvania and beyond for an event at 6:45 p.m. called "Dance with Us," billed as the first global coordinated line dance to boost awareness of pediatric cancer.

Far-flung viewers are being urged to use a live stream on Thon's Facebook page to dance along and to send videos of their line dancing. The best examples will be used on the official Dance With Us page on www.thon.org/DanceWithU, organizers said.

A 30-second instructional line dance video was released to encourage participation.

In a statement announcing the idea last month, Will Martin, overall chairman for Thon, said the idea was to make those far removed from campus a part of the event.

Thon, which debuted in 1973, raised $2,000 that year. In the decades since, it has grown into the world's largest student-run philanthropy, raising more than $89 million, including nearly $11 million last year.

Proceeds go to the Four Diamonds Fund at Hershey Medical Center and are used to help families and children by covering medical bills not paid for by insurance and by advancing cancer research.

The effort is driven by some 15,000 annual volunteers. Participants from Penn State's two dozen campuses statewide have written letters soliciting donations, gone on road trips for "canning weekends," when students solicit donations in canisters outside stores and at busy intersections, and conducted various other fundraisers.

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Bill Schackner:bschackner@post-gazette.com or (412) 263-1977.


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