YORK, Pa. — Eating healthier, getting more sleep, drinking plenty of water and exercising are just a few of the things Erin Greer and Ryan Wentz, both students at Penn State York, are doing to prepare to dance at the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, set for Feb. 16-18 at the Bryce Jordan Center on the University Park campus. Greer and Wentz will represent the York campus during this 46-hour event considered a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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 Health Children’s Hospital. Since pairing in 1977, THON has raised more than $200 million for Four Diamonds, its sole beneficiary.
Four Diamonds Fund 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. 16, at the Bryce Jordan Center and ends 46 hours later, at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 18. “Treasure Every Adventure” is the theme for THON 2024, and this year marks the event’s 52nd anniversary.
The two dancers selected to represent Penn State York Benefiting THON at THON Weekend were chosen based on a variety of criteria, including participation in fundraising, attending events, and other activities. 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, purse bingos, chocolate sales, a coffee sale, a gift-wrapping event, and writing and sending solicitation letters (THONvelopes) to family and friends.
York THON Leadership
Ashlyn Smith, 19, a sophomore at Penn State York majoring in business, is the Penn State York Benefiting THON chair. Smith decided to take on the job of THON chair at York to honor her older sister, Melanie Myers, who died of a cancerous brain tumor at just four and a half years old. Smith never met her sister, Myers died before Smith was born, but she saw the benefits to her family from Four Diamonds and decided she wanted to make a difference and THON became a passion for her. Her sister never attended THON, but the event made a major impression on Smith. She participated in Mini-THONS throughout her years in middle school and high school at Spring Grove High School, in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, and has been to THON every year since she was 15 years old, except for during the pandemic. Smith is proud to note that her younger brother is involved with the Mini-THON now at Spring Grove High School and he and her mom will be at THON 2024.
In addition to Smith, the group is led by Ellie Stiffler, 20, a sophomore at Penn State York majoring in human development and family studies, who is the co-chair. She was involved with Mini-THONS at Northern Middle School in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania. Her middle school group went to THON for a day, and she continued helping with THON for a time in high school.
Stiffler wanted to help continue to make a difference for children with cancer and it has become a passion of hers, she shared.
“I was very excited to discover that I could continue with THON at Penn State York.”
Students involved in THON met weekly throughout the year and are set to make the trip to University Park for THON Weekend to cheer on York’s dancers and all those who are participating For The Kids (FTK) during the 46-hour event. About 25 York students will participate in THON and stand in support of all the dancers.
Both York dancers consider dancing at THON to be a privilege and look forward to interacting with THON children and families, members of the York THON group, and all those spending the weekend raising funds and awareness for the fight against childhood cancer. The dancers know this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
York’s THON Dancers
Greer, 23, is a junior majoring in human development and family studies and has been involved in THON at York campus since her arrival. She was involved with Mini-THON at Spring Grove Middle School and High School for six years. She and members of her family have raised funds for THON for many years. Her involvement with THON began as a curious exploration into the world of volunteering and making a positive impact on the community.
Her interest in finding a cure for cancer is personal. Greer’s mom was diagnosed with cancer when was just 9 years old and she has felt the impact that cancer has on individuals and their families. Her mom is a survivor but the worry over reoccurrence is always in the back of her families’ mind and the entire family works to raise awareness and funds to find a cure.
“This personal connection fueled my determination to make a difference in the lives of those affected by this relentless disease,” said Greer. “THON was not just about fundraising; it became my way to join in a collective effort to contribute to something greater than myself.”
Greer notes that as she transitioned to college, her commitment to THON deepened and her desire to dance at the 46-hour event became a goal, one that she will reach on THON Weekend.
“THON has become more than a yearly event: it is a thread woven into the fabric of my life, connecting me to a community of passionate individuals dedicated to creating positive change,” said Greer.
She is looking forward to meeting THON children and their families and hearing the THON monetary total at the event of the weekend. Her parents and one of her grandparents will be attending THON 2024.
Wentz, 19, is a sophomore majoring in computer science and has been involved in THON since his high school’s Mini-THON. A 2022 graduate of York Suburban High School in York, Pennsylvania, he has wanted to be a dancer because he believes that Four Diamonds is a great cause, and he loves doing things to support it.
He joined Penn State York Benefiting THON when he became a student at the campus in the fall of 2022. He never imagined he would be a dancer at THON and considers it a privilege.
“I’m really excited to be dancing at THON but am also nervous at the same time,” he said. “I can’t wait to see everything at THON this year.”
Both dancers have devoted a great deal of time throughout the year to make it to THON Weekend as dancers. They will have friends and some family members attending THON to support them, in addition to the York THON members, THON families, other dancers, all those spectators at the big dance in person and those online.
THON is committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer. THON's mission is to provide emotional and financial support, spread awareness, and ensure funding for critical research — all in pursuit of a cure.
There is still time to donate to THON and help Penn State York reach its monetary goal.
Donations can be made online here. This link goes directly to a page for Penn State York Benefiting THON. Online donations can be made until midnight on Saturday, Feb. 17 to be included in the campus total.
Checks in support of THON should be made payable to Penn State Dance Marathon or THON, and sent to: Penn State York, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., York, PA 17403, or drop the check in Barb Dennis’ mailbox in the mailroom at Penn State York no later than noon on Feb. 15. Be sure to note 'York, Org. 170' in the memo line of the check.