York THON dancers get ready for the big weekend to dance For The Kids

January 31, 2013

For Jimmy Clark, the opportunity to dance at the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, fondly known as THON, is very personal.  Clark, a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State York, is a Four Diamonds child himself, and a cancer survivor.  He will join Kara Smith, a 22-year-old senior at Penn State York, and represent the campus at the 41st annual THON, a 46-hour-hour dance marathon, set for Feb. 15-17, at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College.  The event is held each year to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital in Hershey, Pa.

The two dancers were chosen for York based on a variety of criteria, including spirit points they earned since last September by doing a variety of activities to raise money for THON and the battle against pediatric cancer.  THON is the largest student-run philanthropy and weekend dance marathon is the culmination of a yearlong fundraising effort.

In addition to raising money, THON enables campus students to raise spirits by sponsoring local families dealing with cancer.  Members of York’s THON Committee have provided encouragement to the families through visits, parties, cards and plenty of emotional support.

For York’s dancers, and members of the campus THON committee, the year has included a variety of fundraising efforts such as taking part in weekend canning weekends (soliciting donations) at several locations in and around the York area, pasta dinners, a raffle, a poker tournament, and a community day at a local yogurt business.  Students involved in THON have met weekly throughout the year and will make the trip to University Park  to cheer on York’s dancers and all those who are dancing For The Kids (FTK) during the 46-hour event.

The year culminates in a no sitting, no sleeping, two-day dance marathon. First held in 1973, THON has partnered with the Four Diamonds Fund since 1977, and in that time has raised more than $89 million and has helped thousands of children and families fight pediatric cancer.   Last year the event raised more than $10.6 million and broke its own record. The mission of THON is to conquer pediatric cancer by providing outstanding emotional and financial support to the children, families, researchers, and staff of the Four Diamonds Fund.

Clark, of Red Lion, Pa., well knows what it is like to battle cancer.  Diagnosed in December 2008 with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer in his right leg, he has battled the disease. He was treated for cancer at The Penn State Hershey Medical Center and the surgery to remove the tumor and save his leg was done at John Hopkins in Baltimore, Md. Clark and his family received positive news on June 18, 2010, when his status was changed to NED (No Evidence of Disease).

A 2011 graduate of Red Lion High School, Clark has been involved with THON since his diagnosis in 2008. 

“It has completely changed my life, my views and morals, and made it clear what is important in life.”

He has successfully raised money for THON during the past three years, hosting a poker tournament, “Poker with Jimmy,” and has been an active member in the York THON group since he was a freshman.  Clark is a business administration major.

“I really know what it means to be a THON dancer and how everything affects the families,” said Clark.  “I want to give back for all that I have received.”
In order to prepare for THON, Clark has cut caffeine and limited sugar in his diet  He is also working out a little.  His biggest concern is being able to survive being on his feet for 46 hours.  He is most looking forward to family hour, when all the THON families and children are featured, and when the final total is released.

Smith, of York, Pa., and a communication arts and sciences major with a minor in human development and family studies, has been involved in THON since she was a freshman. She has served as a local THON co-chair for the past two years along with Alannah Lentz, 22, of Columbia, Pa. Smith and Lentz hope that this year the York THON group will break the campus’ record of more than $17,000 for THON.

A 2009 graduate of West York High School, Smith has be preparing for THON by   running, eating very healtier, lowering her sugar intake, cutting caffeine from her diet, and doing lots of stretching.  To become more accustomed to being on her feet for an extensive time, she tries to stand as much as possible whether she’s at work, eating, or doing daily activities.

“THON is so important to me and has been a great part of my life since I started college. Dancing is the perfect way to complete my college career before I graduate in December,” Smith said.

For Smith, seeing all the work that THON does and the impact it has on helping kids fight cancer is rewarding. 

“All these kids should be in school having fun with their friends, learning, and growing. They shouldn’t have to worry about the pains of cancer and spending days in a hospital,” said Smith.  “I’ve just learned so much and THON is for sure the best thing I have done at Penn State.  The people I have met and the experiences it has given me are some of the best memories I will have for life.”

During THON weekend, more than 700 dancers and thousands of supporters come together at University Park in the hopes that one day a cure for pediatric cancer will be found. Whether standing for 46 hours as a dancer, entertaining the crowd, taking care of the facility, or even sitting in the stands, every person involved with THON plays a valuable role in creating an amazing atmosphere of love, compassion, and understanding.  This atmosphere inspires the students to fundraise throughout the year and demonstrates to the families of the Four Diamonds Fund that they have the care and support they need.  This collective effort, involving more than 15,000 students, has become one of Penn State's greatest and most unifying traditions.

For more information about Penn State York’s THON activities, please contact Alannah Lentz at anl5123@psu.edu or Kara Smith at kjs5375@psu.edu, York’s THON co-chairs.

The campus THON group is nearing their goal of $20,000 and is looking for your support. There’s still time to donate. Anyone interested in supporting the dancers from Penn State York can send checks made payable to:

Penn State Dance Marathon
Penn State York
1031 Edgecomb Ave.
York, PA   17403
Note York, Org. 170 in the memo line of the check. Donations are also accepted online at www.thon.org.  Be sure to use the dropdown box and designate your donation for York and it will count toward the campus total.


  • Kara Smith and Jimmy Clark, Penn State York's THON dancers, practice their dance moves in preparation for THON 2013 to be held Feb. 15-17 at the Bryce Jordan Center on the University Park campus of Penn State.

    IMAGE: Barbara Dennis

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 31, 2013