YORK, Pa. — "Spark Endless Light" is the theme for THON 2022, and the dancers representing Penn State York, Zach Benzel and Moustafa Elhasany are excited to dance for the fight against pediatric cancer at the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, Feb. 18-20 at the Bryce Jordan Center (BJC) on the University Park campus.
All Penn State students and staff wishing to access the Bryce Jordan Center event level (floor), or mezzanine will be required to provide proof of vaccination. In addition, all families, spectators and Penn State students and staff will be required to be masked at all times, regardless of vaccination status, in accordance with University guidelines. Organizers are prepared to pivot to an online-only format should conditions require a change. More information on health and safety protocols can be found on thon.org.
York’s dancers will join more than 750 pairs of dancers who will not be sitting or sleeping for the entire weekend. In fact, the dancers will be on their feet for 46 hours to raise funds to support innovative and sustainable pediatric cancer research at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Since pairing in 1977, THON has raised more than $190 million for the Four Diamonds Fund, its sole beneficiary.
The Four Diamonds fills in the funding gaps that insurance leaves for the patients it serves, enabling families to focus on caring for their children. This year’s event begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, at the BJC and ends 46 hours later, on Sunday, Feb. 20, at 4 p.m.
Two dancers were selected to represent Penn State York Benefiting THON based on a variety of criteria, including participation in fundraising and other activities for THON. THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, and the weekend dance marathon is the culmination of yearlong fundraising efforts.
Fundraising efforts for the campus THON committee over the past year included dine outs, snack sales, chocolate sales, a gift-wrapping event, and writing THONvelopes, solicitation letters, to family and friends.
Omar Mohamed Elhasany, a junior at Penn State York majoring in business with a management and marketing option, has led the group throughout the year with the help of other student captains and members working to support finding a cure for pediatric cancer.
Students involved in THON met weekly throughout the year and will make the trip to University Park to cheer on York’s dancers and all those who are participating For The Kids (FTK) during the 46-hour event.
Both York dancers said they are looking forward to spending time with the children and their families at THON, their own family members, and members of the campus organization. The dancers said they know this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and a privilege.
Benzel, a first-year student at Penn State York majoring in mathematics, is serving as one of the treasurers for the York group and has been an active member. Benzel is familiar with THON because the 2021 graduate of West York High School participated in Mini-THON there.
“I want to dance at THON to experience a little of what the kids are going through and help many of them. I knew when I decided to attend Penn State that THON was a must-do event,” he said.
To prepare for the event, Benzel has purchased new, more comfortable shoes and said he is trying to limit his caffeine intake. He said he is looking forward to being with the kids and meeting new people. His biggest concern about completing the 46-hour event is that his legs will give out, he said.
“Standing for 46 hours is a long time and a lot of energy drain, but it will be worth it,” he said.
Benzel said he hopes his parents and sister can attend and looks forward to having them experience THON with him, along with the students from York and from throughout the University.
Elhasany, a second-year student at Penn State York majoring in mechanical engineering, has also been an active member of the group and learned about THON when he was in high school. He is a 2020 graduate of York Suburban High School where they hold a Mini THON each year.
“Mini-THON in high school is where I learned about THON. I want to show my support to the organization, by being a dancer, and take part in a program that is helping many around the world,” he said.
To prepare for THON Weekend, like his fellow dancer, Elhasany has purchased new shoes he says are extremely comfortable.
Elhasany is looking forward to helping people and building memories in the process. His biggest concern is the extended amount of time he needs to stay awake. He notes that seeing pictures of THON Weekend and the energy and atmosphere displayed has inspired him that he will be able to do it.
“I feel like it will go fast and will be a fun experience,” he said.
Elhasany’s brother, Omar, is the THON chair for Penn State York Benefiting THON and Elhasany said he looks forward to sharing the experience with Omar.
Both dancers have devoted a great deal of time throughout the year to make it to THON weekend as dancers. They will have family members and friends attending THON to support them, in addition to the York THON members, THON families, other dancers, and all the spectators at the big dance.
THON is a student-run philanthropy committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer. Its mission is to provide emotional and financial support, spread awareness, and ensure funding for critical research — all in pursuit of a cure.