STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — More than 700 Penn State students braced themselves Friday to spend the weekend awake and dancing the night away in a 46-hour marathon that is part of the university's annual THON fundraiser.
Officially called the Penn State Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, the event is billed as the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
Students dance — and remain upright — on the floor of the school's Bryce Jordan Center to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.
This year's marathon was scheduled from 6 p.m. Friday through 4 p.m. Sunday.
Laura Guinan said the children her THON organization supports serve to motivate her to keep dancing. To prep for THON, the 22-year-old from Philadelphia put in extra workouts at the gym, maintained a healthy diet and got extra sleep.
"I know I can get through the toughness of 46 hours on my feet because those kids can go through months and even years of treatments," Guinan said. "That's more pain than I will ever have to go through in my lifetime."
THON has raised more than $101 million since 1977. Last year, students raised a record-breaking $12.37 million, a total they're hoping to shatter this year.
Part of the money is raised on weekend out-of-town trips, when students stand on street corners and outside of businesses and ask for donations. Other fundraising efforts are made throughout the weekend.
"I think it's important to us that we raise as much money as we can to support the families," THON spokeswoman Dana Giacobello said.
Guinan is a fundraising officer for FOTO, a student organization dedicated to raising money for THON. She and other FOTO members also spend time throughout the year with two children who have undergone pediatric cancer treatments.