Throwback THON

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In 1973, fraternity students at Penn State decided to hold a dance competition, as a way to fight the winter doldrums and to give back to the community. The first such event was held in the HUB Ballroom on Feb. 2, for 30 hours; 39 couples paid ten dollars each for the chance to win a $300 grand prize. When the event ended, 17 couples were still standing and more than $2,000 had been raised -- far above what had been anticipated -- for a local charity benefiting special needs children.

Our photo is from 1979, when the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon – more familiarly known as THON – outgrew its space in the HUB Ballroom and moved to the Mary Beaver White Building. A total of 286 student dancers took the floor for the three-day, no-sitting, no-sleeping weekend event. THON raised a record $72,132 that year to support the Four Diamonds Fund, an organization which raised money to assist children with cancer and their families. THON had begun partnering with Four Diamonds two years previously (and continues that partnership today).

In the more than four decades since it began, THON has outgrown three venues (it moved to Rec Hall in 1999 and again in 2007 to the Bryce Jordan Center), and has become a year-round effort and the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. In 2012, it broke the $10 million fund-raising mark for the first time; and last year raised a record $13.3 million to fight pediatric cancer.

This year’s event will be held this weekend, Feb. 20-22, with more than 700 dancers representing approximately 600 student organizations.

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Last Updated February 24, 2015