York THON group looks forward to livestreamed event

THON Weekend to be a virtual experience for all

In this picture taken last February at THON 2020, enthusiasm was the name of the game for Penn State York Benefiting THON students in the stands at the Bryce Jordan Center. Though this year's event is virtual, there is no less enthusiasm for raising money this year for children battling pediatric cancer as THON 2021 is a livestream event beginning at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, and ending at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 21. The THON theme for 2021 is "Rise and Unify," and despite a pandemic, THON will virtually go on.

Credit: Barbara Dennis

YORK, Pa. — This weekend, the 2021 Penn State IFC Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) kicks off a livestream beginning at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19 and continuing through Sunday, Feb, 21 at 4 p.m. Instead of people gathering at the Bryce Jordan Center to cheer on dancers for 46 hours, people will be gathering across the state and around the world to watch the THON 2021 livestream.

Dancers will be in their homes and do not have to be on their feet for 46 hours as they normally do. Time has been allotted for rest and sleep to ensure that all dancers remain safe. The theme for 2021 is "Rise and Unify."

“THON is still happening, it hasn’t been cancelled,” said Paige Barlow, a sophomore at Penn State York and the THON chairperson for the campus THON group. “These kids need our help more than ever right now, and it’s our duty to not only keep them safe, but to do what we can, despite a pandemic, to improve their lives through our year-long fundraising effort,” she said.

Since 1976, THON the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, has raised more than $180 million and supported 4,000 families through Four Diamonds, which offsets the cost of treatment that insurance does not cover, as well as expenses that might impact the welfare of a child with cancer. 

Barlow. who danced last year at THON in memory of her mother, decided to step-up and be the Penn State York Benefiting THON chair and has worked with the “small but mighty” group since last fall.

At age 9, Barlow lost her mother to brain cancer and remembers how difficult it was on her family.  One of the main reasons she decided to attend Penn State, was the opportunity to be a part of THON. As a high school student, she worked on a Mini-THON at Dallastown High School and was committed to continue to work and raise funds to find a cure for pediatric cancer. A genetics and developmental biology major, Barlow said she hopes she can have an impact on finding a cure for cancer someday.

The York group has been meeting weekly via Zoom since the fall semester and held a variety of fundraisers throughout the year. Unfortunately, the biggest fundraiser at York, "Poker with Jimmy," led by cancer-survivor and Penn State graduate Jimmy Clark, could not happen this year but the hope is it will be able to be back in fall 2021.

York does not have dancers this year but that has not stopped their fundraising work.

“Even though Penn State York will not have dancers representing our campus during the THON livestream, it is important to remember that we are all part of this organization for one common cause — to raise money for kids with cancer,” Barlow said. “Having danced last year, I can imagine it will be extra difficult for dancers this year as they will not have the same resources in their household as were available to dancers in the past in the Bryce Jordan Center.”

The Penn State York Benefiting THON student organization will host a small on-campus event to culminate the weekend, on Sunday from noon until 4 p.m., the Final Four, as it is commonly known at THON. York campus students, faculty and staff are invited to attend the event in the conference center of the Main Classroom Building. The event will adhere strictly to all COVID-19 guidelines with everyone being masked and socially distant. To attend the event, participants must register. Entrance to the Final Four will be through the lower level of the Main Classroom Building near the area known as The Beach.  No other doors to the building will be open.

Donations can be made online at this link until 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20. This link goes directly to the Penn State York donor drive page.

The THON Weekend livestream will feature many of the events that take place at THON each year, including line dances, special performances and the annual pep rally.

THON has been modified to safeguard the health and safety of all Four Diamonds families, participants, dancers, volunteers and spectators during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no in-person component, and there will be no spectators, dancers or participants in the Bryce Jordan Center.