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Behind the Scenes of THON: Kathleen McDonald, Dancer Relations Committee Member

We’ve all heard the numbers before: over 16,500 student volunteers, more than 136 million dollars raised and over 400 organizations participating.  However, what actually goes on leading up to and during the 46 hours that is the culmination of the largest student-run philanthropy in the world?  We’ve interviewed students in different roles to figure out how they’re contributing to making THON 2018 the best one yet.


Name: Kathleen McDonald

Year: Senior

Role: Dancer Relations (DR) Committee Member

Org/Committee: Kendra Paro’s Dancer Relations Committee, “The InKendrables”


HC: Why are you looking forward to THON 2018?

Kathleen McDonald: I am really looking forward to just being on the floor for my last THON and be able to get to know my dancer better and hangout with him as well as meet the other dancers and even the THON families that are on the floor that I am lucky enough to get to meet and get to know during the 46 hours!


HC: How have you and your Dancer Relations Committee prepared for THON 2018?

KM: During the year, leading up to THON weekend, the dancer relations committees learn different skills and tools that will help us take care of all the THON dancers during THON weekend. My specific committee was in charge of planning and executing the Common Wealth Dancer Retreat, which is a weekend that takes place a few weeks before THON. All the head THON chairs and dancers from all the commonwealth campuses come together to register their dancers, meet each other and meet their DRCMs during the retreat. It is really important for the commonwealth dancers because it serves as their dancer meetings since they are not able to go to all the dancer events and meetings held in State College leading up to THON weekend!


HC: What does your committee do during THON weekend?

KM: DR likes to use the phrase, “We are here for the dancers so that they can be there for the kids”, to describe what our committee does.  It means that we help take care of and encourage the dancers during the full 46 hours so that they can be there FTK. We are on the floor with our assigned dancers doing whatever they need us to do to help them throughout the weekend. One of the big things we focus on is making sure our dancers are stretching, hydrating and eating regularly. THON weekend can be very hard on a dancer’s body and can be very overwhelming, so it is very important that they are constantly stretching and staying hydrated to prevent pain and soreness throughout the weekend. Every dancer is different and his or her needs vary.  I was on DR last year as well and what my dancer needed then will probably be different than what my dancer will need this year.



HC: What’s your favorite part of THON weekend?

KM: “My favorite part of THON weekend is “dancers stand”, when the 46 hours starts! Everyone in the BJC is so loud and energetic and the overall feel of the building is so exciting, which just makes the floor so much more fun! It is a really crazy and fun moment when all the dancers first stand. Last year, I was lucky enough to have my first shift be before this time so I was able to be on the floor with my dancer when he stood and started the 46 hours which was a really cool thing to share with him!”


About THON: Penn State THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Thousands of Penn State students – a part of more than 400 student organizations – work tirelessly across all campuses to support the kids and their families. These yearlong efforts end in a 46-hour dance marathon. Students called will stand on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center for the full 46 hours.  The organizations sponsoring these dancers stand in the seats of the Bryce Jordan Center and cheer on their friends and organization members. Pairs can also dance independently without an organization, and are chosen to do so through a lottery system.

Organizations are assigned a family with a child being treated or who haS received treatment for cancer at Hershey Medical Center and received financial and emotional support from the money raised through THON.  For these THON kids and families, THON is a celebration of life. Kids join dancers on the floor and complete games, fashion shows and other fun events.

Over the years, 147,000,000 dollars have been raised and has dramatically impacted families through lowered treatment costs and research funding. In order to donate, please visit https://thon.donordrive.com/.


Kelsie Ahern is a Sophomore at Penn State majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Art History. She has a love for everything fashion, french bull dogs, and a good brunch.
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