NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — The THON committee at Penn State New Kensington, headed by sophomore Ashley Worlds, raised $15,000 for the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon that benefits the Four Diamonds Fund and the fight against pediatric cancer. The total is the eighth-best in campus history.
“THON is a powerful experience for students, whether they are standing in the stands or dancing on the floor,” said Theresa Bonk, director of student affairs at the campus. “It’s an essential part of being a Penn Stater and reflects the Penn State values.”
The two New Kensington campus student dancers — Shannon Josefoski of Natrona Heights and Chad Navarro of Munhall — joined more than 700 dancers from across the University for the 46-hour event, Feb. 17 to 19, in the Bryce Jordan Center at University Park.
After chairing the THON committee and playing a supporting role in the stands last year for campus dancers Wati Kumwenda and Ben Lesko, Josefoski the dancer got a new perspective on THON.
“Last year I had the opportunity to be on the floor with a support pass, so I thought I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect,” said Josefoski, a senior project and supply chain management major. “But being on the floor for the entire 46 was nothing close to it.”
The Four Diamonds Fund serves a dual role — supporting families financially during treatment and funding cancer research. The children and families joined the dancers on the floor, playing games, pulling pranks and providing inspiration. Squirt gun battles are a tradition.
“We played with water guns and beach balls and just had a good time,” Josefoski said. “There was a handful of times I needed a pick-me-up, and a Four Diamonds parent was there to give me a hug or some words of encouragement, and I was ready to go.
The New Kensington dancers did not go at it alone. The University Park THON committee assigned each dancer a moraler who attended to the 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, a New Kensington posse was on the floor and in the stands, ready to cheer on the campus hoofers and provide moral support.
“The campus students were excited, enthusiastic and so very ready to support our dancers,” Bonk said. “They waited in line for hours prior to the start of THON just to be sure to get seats in a section of that would be as close as possible to Chad and Shannon on the dance floor.”
The only downer for Josefoski was Saturday when the pass system crashed, and campus supporters were unable to get to the floor. Seeing the faces of friends is a big motivator for surviving the weekend.
“For me, it was a low point in the weekend,” Josefoski said. “I just wanted a hug from someone familiar on the floor standing next to me.”
Worlds, a biobehavioral health major from Kittanning High School, supervised the campus’ THON efforts at University Park. She developed and organized schedules and managed shifts and breaks.
“I want to thank Ashley Worlds and her entire team for doing such a great job,” Bonk said. “I was truly inspired by our THON team. We are very proud of these students.”
By the numbers
In the past six years, the New Kensington THON committees have collected more than $210,000. Since 2002, campus students have raised $315,000. Kelly Sieja chaired the committee that set the record of $53,000 in 2011. The second-best total, $50,000, was secured a year later under the direction of Lauren Richards.
Overall, THON raised more than $10 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. Researchers at the hospital are working to find better treatments and, ultimately, cures for forms of cancer that afflict children. Approximately 100 new families receive support each year.
First held in 1973, THON has partnered with the Four Diamonds Fund since 1977 and in that time has raised approximately $147 million FTK — "For The Kids." More than 17,000 students participated in making THON 2017 happen, including the thousands of students who helped them raise funds throughout the year and thousands more who volunteered during THON weekend.
Fundraising for THON covers the fall and spring semesters. New Kensington’s 2018 THON committee will start its efforts in September. Two new dancers will represent the campus based on participation in THON activities, such as canning, spaghetti dinners and bingo bashes.
“We encourage students to participate in some way even if they can’t travel to the actual event,” Bonk said. “There are so many ways to become involved.”
Now a grizzled vet of THON, Josefoski has some sage advice for her dancing successors. The key to managing the 46 hours of standing on your feet is simple — food, water and stretching.
“Always have a water in your hand and make sure that you are eating and stretching,” Josefoski said. “If you walk past food, pick something up. Do the line dances as it can wake you up, and you stretch without realizing it. And is just something fun to do.”
For more information, visit THON
For more about campus dancers and co-chair, visit Josefoski, Navarro and Worlds