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BRANDYWINE WINS THON SPIRIT POINT COMPETITION

THON 2009
3/3/2009 —

Forty-six hours without sleeping. Forty-six hours without even sitting. That is the challenge that THON dancers face, and Penn State Brandywine’s four Thon dancers—Ashley DiNardo, Amy McCaffrey, Ashley Wood, and Katie Beddow—successfully met that challenge.

(Front row, left to right; Katie Beddow, Ashley Wood. Back row; Amy McCaffrey, Ashley DiNardo)

THON—otherwise known as the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon—is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, benefiting the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Children’s Hospital, dedicated to fighting pediatric cancer.

Thirty-six years ago, a small group of Penn State students decided to have a dance marathon. Thirty-four dancers participated and raised $2,000. Today, THON is a huge presence in the Penn State community and throughout the world. There are 15,000 student volunteers and 700 dancers. This year, THON raised more than $7 million!

The fundraising is a year-long effort, and the THON committee at Penn State Brandywine committed many volunteer hours doing canning (collecting small donations in cans on selected weekends in the community) and organizing a THON auction on campus. The efforts of the campus’ fantastic THON committee resulted in Penn State Brandywine being recognized—just one of two Commonwealth campuses—in the THON 2009 Spirit Point Competition, which recognizes organizations for their hard work and dedication leading up to THON. Each campus earns spirit points by hosting various events on and off campus, such as blood or stamp drives, a 5K run, or canning, among others. Penn State Brandywine placed second in the Spirit Point Competition.

Thirty Brandywine students also showed their support during THON weekend by traveling to University Park to cheer on the campus’ dancers.

Facing the physical demands of being awake and upright for two days, the dancers prepared in various ways. Some got extra sleep. Some trained themselves to get by with less sleep. Sophomore Ashley DiNardo said she gave up caffeine and sugar, and worked out to increase her stamina. Although THON was a very difficult thing to do, she said she would do it again "in a heartbeat. This was the best experience of my life. I will never forget it. I am just getting tears in my eyes because it is over. I can’t wait until next year."

 Freshman Katie Beddow said, "Standing and dancing for 46 hours is not an easy thing to do.  However, seeing the impact you make on the Four Diamonds families’ lives and helping out the kids makes it all worth it. Half way through the weekend my feet were starting to hurt pretty badly but then the sweetest little girl named Natalie put her arms out for me to hold her. Holding her reminded me all over again why I was dancing and gave me the strength to keep going.  After that I couldn't feel the pain in my feet anymore."

She added, "The experience of THON is amazing. It was the BEST weekend of my life and the BEST thing I have ever done.  The end was by far the best part, seeing how much money we raised for the kids and hearing everyone cheering, definitely a great ending to the weekend."

Sophomore Ashley Wood danced for the second year in a row. "Being a dancer is an honor," she said.  "I can't say it’s easy.  It’s the hardest thing I've ever done and was even harder the second year! But when I was really getting down I found my inspiration in a boy named Michael. We played for hours and his energy was constant. His mom told me that Michael said he'd never had so much fun in his life. Thinking about Michael, his heart and spirit, and how much I wanted to help him pushed me through to the end. That's the best part of THON. The kids are why we do it ... they are true heroes and our ‘angels among us.’ As hard as it was, I would do it again every weekend if I thought it would help even one child live a better life."

Senior Amy McCaffrey was the campus’ overall THON chair. "Having the opportunity to dance and represent Brandywine was an honor. I have been involved with THON for the past five years and have held a variety of positions on various levels. As a commonwealth THON chair it was outstanding to see so much support coming from our campus and their willingness to travel to State College."

As a dancer, she continued, "You have your ups and downs, good and bad moments but when you see a THON kid all your pain goes away. I kept this quote in my heart and mind whenever the pain would occur: ‘when you dance with your heart, your feet never touch the ground,’ and it is true."

 "Why do we put ourselves through this?" McCaffrey asked. "We THON for the kids, the kids who need us. The little superheroes who for one weekend don't feel pain and can be a kid. The parents who spend countless hours watching their little one get sick. The ones who need a shoulder to cry on. The ones who are weak and the ones who are strong. We THON for the students who lead us in this fight against pediatric cancer, who put countless hours into an organization that means so much to complete strangers. We THON for families, the ones who cancer has stricken their families, the way that one time a year people walk into the Bryce Jordan  Center as strangers and leave as a family. We THON for the laughter, for the tears, for the cheers, and for the priceless memories that THON brings."

Dr. Matthew Shupp, director of student affairs, said, "This was my first time attending THON and attempting to put the experience into words would never do it justice. I’m extremely proud of our four dancers. I’m extremely proud of being part of something that is so much bigger than one singular campus. I’m in awe of what our students accomplished. It proves that when people work for the collective good, nothing is impossible."

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