NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — After months of working out in the fitness center, monitoring their food intake, and soliciting monetary donations, Penn State New Kensington students Shannon Josefoski and Chad Navarro are primed for two days of dancing at the annual Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, set for Feb. 17 to 19 at the Bryce Jordan Center on the University Park campus.
The philanthropic weekend, which goes by the nickname THON, is a 46-hour endurance test that benefits the Four Diamonds Fund and the fight against pediatric cancer. The students were chosen to represent the campus by the New Kensington THON committee chaired by Ashley Worlds.
Josefoski and Navarro will stay on their feet day and night to raise money for children with cancer. THON’s mission is to defeat pediatric cancer in the world. The campus duo will be dancing “for the kids,” the traditional theme of THON, and raising millions of dollars for cancer research.
“I wanted to join something that is bigger than myself,” said Navarro, a product of Steel Valley High School. “In my opinion, THON is the best charity organization that you can help with because the effects it has on the kids and families is incredible.”
THON begins at 6 p.m. Friday and continues until 4 p.m. Sunday. Events, such as a pep rally and fashion shows featuring Four Diamonds children, keep the dancers enthusiastic throughout the weekend. The final four hours include recognition of families battling childhood cancer and the unveiling of the fundraising total.
“I originally got involved in THON just to be a part of an organization on our campus,” said Josefoski, who attended Highlands High School. “But after my trip to University Park for my first THON weekend, I knew that I wanted to be a larger part of the organization having a larger impact on the kids and families effected by cancer.”
Josefoski, a senior project and supply chain management major from Natrona Heights, and Navarro, a sophomore accounting major from Munhall, received a grand send-off Feb. 15 with a campus-wide “pot-luck” dinner. The marathon hoofers needed to “carbo-load” and students, faculty and staff brought an assortment of pastas and other high-energy foods to help the pair keep pace with the weekend festivities.
A sophomore biobehavioral health major from Kittanning, Worlds will supervise the campus’s THON efforts from the stands of the Jordan Center. Surrounded by campus supporters, the Kittanning High School graduate will develop and organize schedules, and manage shifts and breaks.
Josefoski, who also is president of the campus’ SGA, knows about running the day-to day operations of the THON committee. She was last year’s THON chair.
“It’s the chair’s role to ensure that everything runs smoothly for our campus members,” Josefoski said. “And most importantly to keep the spirits of our dancers up.”
The leadership qualities and commitment to service of all three students portend a successful THON effort for the campus. The trio comprises almost half of the campus’ SGA’s officers.
As a team, they attended the National Student Government Summit last semester in Washington, D.C. Considered the world’s largest student conference, the four-day seminar focused on student leaders getting fellow students involved in campus activities.
They lead by example. When there were no classes in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 16, Josefoski, Navarro and Worlds, along with six other campus students, traveled to Penn State Fayette to help with the daily activities at six community organizations in the Uniontown area.
Josefoski and Worlds also journeyed to Arizona last year to the Native American-governed territory. The 11-member campus group helped with various construction projects and took part in a traditional Navajo experience.
A first baseman on the campus baseball team, Navarro joined his teammates in December at the New Kensington Salvation Army to help fulfill the wish lists of children in the community. They also purchased gifts for residents of Logan Place, an assistant living facility in Lower Burrell.
Extracurricular activities are not limited to community service for Navarro. His academic endeavors also come into play.
Navarro was a part on a group of campus business students who competed in the prestigious PricewaterhouseCoopers' Challenge Case Competition, a national business collegiate tournament that gives students the opportunity to work through some of the same issues that challenge business and government leaders. His team earned praise from the PwC judges who said the team was “very well prepared, thorough, and great public speakers.”
Dancing “For the Kids”
The campus terpsichoreans will join more than 700 students from the 24 Penn State campuses at the Jordan Center. In Greek mythology, Terpsichore was the muse of dancing.
According to Worlds, the number of dancers going to University Park from each campus is based on the amount of money raised by the campus the previous year. Last year, New Kensington students raised $17,000, seventh-best total in campus history. The $52,390 raised in 2011 remains the campus standard.
The dancers were chosen by an eight-member interview committee comprised of students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni. The selections were based on participation in campus THON activities, such as canning, spaghetti dinners and bingo bashes.
Josefoski and Navarro won’t be on their own once they hit the dance floor. The University Park THON committee assigns each dancer a moraler who attends to their needs during the marathon. Be it food, drink, or inspiration, the moraler's responsibility is to help the dancers get through the event.
In addition to the moralers, the campus is supporting the dancers with about 50 students and friends in the stands who will provide an upbeat atmosphere throughout the marathon. Navarro was a part of last year’s campus contingent. Another group from the campus community will lend support by making a day trip by bus on Saturday to the Jordan Center.
A live webcast will be streamed throughout the event.
Final totals for New Kensington and all the other Penn State units will be announced at the conclusion of the marathon. In the past five years, the New Kensington THON committee has collected more than $200,000 to support pediatric cancer patients, families and researchers, who are working to find better treatments and, ultimately, cures for forms of cancer that afflict children. Approximately 100 new families receive support each year.
Since 1977, THON raised $136 million for the charity through the collective efforts nearly 17,000 student-volunteers. More than 3,700 families have been assisted by the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey. THON is believed to be the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
“No one should ever have to hear the words your child has cancer,” Josefoski said. “Anything that I can do to make sure that there is one less family that has to hear those words, I am going to do it.”
To give to THON online and credit the New Kensington campus, visit New Kensington THON.
For more information, visit THON online.