THON cyclist makes pit stop at New Kensington campus

Nearing the end of a marathon bicycle ride to raise money for THON, Tyler Knabb made a pit stop Oct. 28 at Penn State New Kensington.

Knabb, who started the eight day, 920-mile journey on Oct. 22, was greeted by campus students, faculty and staff as he made his way up the front entrance hill before arriving at the campus Lion Shrine. The New Kensington stop was Knabb’s sixth day of riding, and the eighth campus he has visited.

“I didn't think Western Pennsylvania was this hilly,” said Knabb with a laugh as he dismounted and unplugged his iTunes. “The eastern part of the state has stretches where you go straight up and come down. Here you go up and down constantly.”

Called Hope Express, Knabb’s ride is a tribute to his mother, Carol, and friend Michael Chobot, both victims of cancer. Chobot was a Penn State alumnus and avid supporter of THON. Formally known as Penn State Interfraternity Council/ Panhellenic Dance Marathon, THON raises funds to fight childhood cancer and is believed to be the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

“The point of this ride is to best exemplify the challenges and hardships those faced with cancer go through day-in and day-out,” said Knabb, who is enrolled part time in the bachelor of science in security and risk analysis program offered by Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology and delivered online by the World Campus. “Cancer patients don’t ask for such trials, but despite them, they press forward. And, because of them, I can — and I will — do the same.”

Among the greeters at the New Kensington campus was Kevin Snider, chancellor of the campus, and Gary Heberling, coordinator of the information sciences and technology program. Heberling is Knabb’s online instructor for the security and risk analysis program. The two met face-to-face for the first time.

“A teacher has opportunities to interact with students in an online class but it is a special event when I am able to meet the student in person,” said Heberling, who joined the campus faculty in 2000. “I think it is great what Tyler is doing to raise money for THON.” 

Knabb’s odyssey began Oct. 22 in Baltimore, where Knabb is a full-time cognitive neuroscience major at Johns Hopkins University. The route, laid out in the shape of a heart, was designed for Knabb to cover approximately 100 miles a day with one rest day. The first part of route covered four days and 423 miles, and included visits to the Penn State campuses of York, Hershey Medical Center, Schuylkill, Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre and University Park. He rested on the fifth day and relaxed by running the THON 5K in State College.

After leaving New Kensington, Knabb headed to Greater Allegheny in McKeesport and Fayette in Uniontown. No campus visit was planned for Knabb’s seventh riding day of 155 miles from Uniontown to Hagerstown. On final day of the journey, Oct. 30, Knabb stops at Penn State Mont Alto before heading back to Baltimore and concluding the journey.

The Reading, Pa. native expected to raise $3,000 for his efforts. By the time he arrived at the New Kensington campus, online donations had exceeded $4,400.

“I think my story started gaining some momentum in the Penn State community, and donations just started pouring in,” said Knapp, who will make a car trip Feb. 21 to University Park for the main THON event, a three-day, 46-hour, no sitting, no sleeping marathon.

Knapp talked with members of the New Kensington campus THON committee. Chaired by Morgan Sarniak, the students are in the middle of its fundraising campaign. Canning weekends and special events are scheduled for the next four months until the dance marathon. Four students will represent the campus on the dance floor of the Bryce Jordan Center.

Last year, New Kensington raised $43,000, third best in campus history. In the past three years, New Kensington has raised nearly $170,000, making it one of the top five producers among Penn State’s 19 Commonwealth Campuses.

For photos of Knabb’s New Kensington stop, visit

For more about Knabb’s “Hope Express,’ visit

For more about THON, visit

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Last Updated October 29, 2013