Hospitality students raise money, don their aprons as THON volunteers

University Park, Pa. — Four hundred pounds of pasta. Forty student volunteers. More than 700 hungry dancers' mouths to feed. Serving the first meal to dancers at THON 2009 might sound intimidating, but for a committee of School of Hospitality Management students, it’s not a “dinner impossible.”

The Penn State Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, also known as THON, begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 20, and the first meal will be served a few hours later by volunteers from the School of Hospitality Management THON committee. The food is a donation from SYSCO Corporation.

The pasta dinner is only one of many contributions that SHM has made to THON 2009. According to School of Hospitality Management THON co-chairwomen Amy Brill and Jackie Kane, who are both seniors majoring in hotel, restaurant and institutional management (HRIM), two fundraising dinners have already been hosted at Café Laura. The first dinner was a traditional Thanksgiving meal held in November 2008, and the second was a pasta dinner donated by Olive Garden in January 2009. The proceeds from both helped to boost the School of Hospitality Management's THON fundraising total, which is at an all-time high and still climbing.

“We’ve already raised $13,000,” Brill said with a smile, “and we’re especially proud of that number because our grand total last year was $5,800.”

Jim Carty, a junior majoring in HRIM and also the school THON’s food and beverage coordinator, is responsible for assembling teams to prepare all meals. “I’ll probably arrive about seven hours early on Friday to start cooking in a makeshift kitchen in the Bryce Jordan Center,” said Carty. “Then we’ll have some time to enjoy THON before we prepare to serve breakfast to 500 Four Diamonds families on Sunday morning.”

Of course, School of Hospitality Management THON members’ involvement is not limited to preparing and serving delicious meals. The committee of 14 also organizes "canning" trips and pledgebooking dates — two common THON fundraising efforts — as well as social activities with their Four Diamonds Fund family. (Funds raised through THON activities support the Four Diamonds Fund, which assists children treated for pediatric cancer at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital and their families through superior care, comprehensive support and innovative research.)

According to Brill, the School of Hospitality Management’s Four Diamonds child, Nick Vicidomini, is 10 years old. He was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma three years ago, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying activities like the Four Diamonds Walk in Hershey, with School of Hospitality Management THON volunteers and his younger brother Tyler.

“I got the opportunity to walk with the family in September,” said School of Hospitality Management THON dancer Aliki Katinas, a senior majoring in both HRIM and crime, law, and justice. “Nick’s energy was so great. He was challenging us to races — and winning — the whole time.”

Kane said that Katinas and partner Matt Granados were selected to be dancers because “they get really involved, show that they truly care, and work hard to help SHM THON.” The pair will certainly be rewarded with the moral support of the School of Hospitality Management THON committee during all 46 hours of the annual dance marathon fundraising event — along with the group’s delicious cooking.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010