Penn State Abington students raise over $21,000 for THON

A contingent of over 30 Penn State Abington students made their way to University Park, Pa., on Feb. 19, to take part in the largest student run philanthropy in the world--the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), which raises money to fight the battle of childhood cancer. The four dancers from Abington remained on their feet for all 46 hours, joining approximately 700 other dancers from Penn State at the Bryce Jordon Center. The students of Penn State Abington raised over $21,000 "For The Kids." THON 2010 raised over $7.8 million -- approximately $400,000 more than last year's efforts.

Neither sore feet nor swollen ankles, nor blisters, nor cramps, nor heavy eyes from lack of sleep, nor tears of joy and pain could make Abington's four dancers (Andrea Wallace, Rebecca Walters, Melissa Hackett and Meagan Boonie) sit down before the end of the dance marathon. These four women endured the pain "For The Kids."

The Abington dancers said the real reason they were able to stand for so long came from the strength and inspiration of the children and families dealing with cancer. Many groups participating in THON have a family that they adopt. The Chapman's are Penn State Abington's THON family. Gabrielle (or Gabby, as she is affectionately known), age 6, was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was only 2 years old. Enduring years of radiation and experimental chemotherapy, Gabby is one of the lucky ones and is now cancer-free.

"Gabby showed me what strength looks like," said sophomore dancer Meagan Boonie.

Sophomore dancer Rebecca Walters agreed.

"Gabby and the rest of the Chapman family are such an inspiration," said Walters. "When they would be on the floor with us, I would feel no pain at all. Every ounce of it would go away and I could hold Gabby and dance around for as long as they were all there. At the end, when everyone was saying congrats on finishing, we got some 'thank yous' from the family and that meant so much, because it's like, you don't do it for the thanks, but hearing it and knowing that they love you so much for doing it means more than words can explain."

Physical and mental preparation was needed in order for the dancers to stay awake for over two days and on their feet for the entire dance marathon.

"Starting Jan. 1, we went on a strict diet," said junior Melissa Hackett of Doylestown. "We cut out sugar and caffeine and started working out five days a week, and we ate lots of (carbohydrates) as the event got closer."

Their hard work paid off -- according to Hackett, their energy level was "awesome" all weekend.

"THON as a whole is very emotional," said Boonie. "You feel the energy and love and that's why we do it. With what (kids with cancer) are going through, we have to make sure they're having the time of their life (at THON). Dancing was the most painful experience of my life, but I wouldn't trade it because it was the best experience of my life."

First-year dancer Andrea Wallace agreed.

"I'm so thankful that I got to experience THON and I can't wait until next year," she said.

THON is a yearlong effort to raise funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. Since 1977, THON has raised close to $70 million for The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey. For more information about THON or to make a donation, visit online.