Honest Conversation About THON Is Necessary


Yesterday, my friend and fellow editor Kevin Horne voiced his opinion on THON, sparking a day and night of debate, discussion, and a whole lot of criticism towards Kevin’s opinion.

At the forefront of the criticism sits The School Philly, who posted a response questioning if Onward State was “serious” with the article. As The LION 90.7FM’s meme points out, The School Philly’s attempts to play moral police seem a little questionable given their sponsorship of State Patty’s Day, which will (hopefully not, but probably) vilify the Penn State student body again this year just six days after THON.

Anyway, plenty of others seemed to take offense to what Kevin’s post discussed, but I struggle to understand why. Can we not have an honest conversation about THON as an organization and about THON weekend as an event? Does every word spoken or written about THON have to glow like the Four Diamonds above the stage this past weekend? Honestly, we need some of the former before THON 2013 fundraising kicks into high gear in the fall. Kevin’s post, along with Ryan’s later in the day, gave that conversation a start.

Now, before you tell me I should transfer or begin threatening me on Twitter, let’s remember that THON is amazing, but it isn’t perfect. Thousands of Penn State students pour their hearts into THON and find that love returned in a huge way. However, the idea that THON should be void of criticism frustrates me. If we learned anything from the past few months, it’s that nothing is untouchable, and for good reason. As @maddyyypryor pointed out to me last night, we should want to find ways to improve THON, as that will make it a better experience in the future for all involved.

I danced in THON 2012 and served as a THON Chair the past two years, and I have truly enjoyed my involvement in THON for a variety of reasons. Many of my most cherished memories at Penn State come from my experience with THON, and I know that every second I spend on something THON-related helps Brighten Every Journey. Of course I THON for the kids, specifically in memory of a family member that I never met because of cancer. However, I also THON because I enjoy going canning with my friends and having the time of my life THON weekend, and I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

Here’s what many seemed to have missed: Kevin isn’t saying there’s anything wrong with that. He’s not “discrediting the year-long effort of thousands of our Penn State brothers and sisters” or “telling them that they don’t matter and don’t even belong in THON” or “telling them that its wrong to be so proud of your school that you want to tell everyone about it,” as The School Philly may have you believe. He’s just voicing his concerns with certain aspects of THON and asking those involved with THON to take a step back and consider a different approach.

So enough with the attacks on Kevin Horne for having the guts to start the conversation. Most of you didn’t see Kevin during the hours he spent at THON, but I did. He worked tirelessly, as much of our staff did, to provide top-quality THON 2012 coverage. He had encouraging words and pat on the back ready for me every time he saw me during my 46 hours of dancing FTK. He loves Penn State as much as anyone I know, and isn’t afraid to give Dear Old State tough love when necessary. You may not agree with his opinion, but at least attempt to understand it or at the very least respect his right to have one.

I have proudly stood as a leader for the Penn State student body on countless occasions over the past few months, and I’ve learned the importance of accepting that what you represent is not, and cannot be, perfect. At the end of the day, we raised $10.6 million to help kids fighting cancer, but that doesn’t make THON perfect. And that’s okay.

Now, can we start acting like it?

Photo By: Ellie Skrzat

About Author

John is a senior in the Smeal College of Business majoring in Marketing. He currently serves as the President of the Paternoville Coordination Committee and as a THON Chair for Nittany Nation. He tweets a lot.


  1. Penn State alum on

    As a THON alumni and active member in DMAIG, I agree with a lot of Kevin’s points but I think it’s funny how he criticizes the student volunteers about wanting to receive praise for the hard work they did, but I saw a tweet or article from someone within Onward State about them bragging about providing the best coverage over THON weekend.

  2. Kevins actions shouldn’t warrant this article even needing to be written. Many aren’t realizing that the criticism of his article lies not in what he believes. One of my professors told me early on that the world doesn’t care what you think, but rather why you think it. People are questioning Kevin’s motivation, not his attitude or opinion.

  3. An honest conversation is necessary. How can anything improve without constructive criticism? But that is just the thing, we need CONSTRUCTIVE criticism and the points that Kevin mentioned were not even close to that. There are improvements needed and THON works to iron out any wrinkles every single year. Having been on a pass committee for this year’s THON, I saw first hand a huge flaw of THON, the pass system. While some scolded us for merely doing our job, we had to stand strong knowing that we were doing was for a reason. I watched Tech captains work their hardest to get the system running as smoothly as possible. Bottom line, no flaw is going unnoticed.

    Being a THON enthusiast, I see little flaws. But the few I see have been improved from last year and are being worked on for next. Kevin’s article caused my blood to boil because of the pure ignorance. Nothing wrong with being a spectator but first of all, he seemed a bit hypocritically in what sounded like gloating about being awake for 54 hours. In the same breath, he mentioned how everyone else gloats about the total. While I agree there are some people out there that go about the pride we feel the wrong way, it is completely unfair for him to generalize the statement to THON.

    To be blunt, we do not care what a spectator thinks of THON. The motto isn’t FTS. The kids have fun, the families have fun. We adjust what they see fit to adjust. Someone listed his points and from a volunteer’s perspective, I was able to combat every single one. Unless you get involved, his superficial piece could make sense. But being involved is where someone can truly find the right research and nothing he said was valid.

    Honest discussions are great. But factual discussions are even better.

  4. That being said, Kevin’s article was sensationalist fodder and seemed like he was criticizing THON “just because”. When an article contains points that can’t be seemingly dispelled by a couple of sentences on a lifestyle blog or by readers on campus, it’s time to reconsider the arguement or reapply it. The article was bad.

  5. Kevin is one person who works for Onward State. The wonderful thing about OS is that we all have different opinions on various topics. While I know and love Kevin as a person, in no way does he represent all of Onward State. That being said, I think your comment is irrelevant.

  6. I’m not sure how anyone can take Onward State seriously. I’m still laughing that they think they should be on “Press Row” and treated as “journalists”. You guys are a blog. You’re bloggers.

  7. I agree 100% with you Rachel. While honest discussion is healthy, please do some research to back your opinions before bashing the Overall Committee for turning away that Quiznos manager. After reading Kevin’s article and following some of the tweets that I read from Onward State over the psat week, it seems almost hyprocritical that you would criticize some of the student volunteers when Onward State is doing a lot of the gloating, especially one that I read how Onward State provided the best coverage of THON last weekend.

  8. Thank you for this. I think that you are correct, we should be able to speak about improvements for THON without fear of hate and backlash. I know that I personally do not mind that Kevin voiced concerns about the way THON as an organization runs. As a former THON chair, dancer, and current committee member, I have seen enough to know that there are certainly things that could change. However, when a person whose only involvement with the event is during THON weekend and not during the rest of the year long effort, he is going to lose credibility. A lot of the points he brought up he might not have had he been more involved and informed about the inner workings of THON. He also was not careful with his words and offended some people who have spent considerable amounts of time working to make this event the best it can be. With an article like this it is hard to stay neutal, but as a journalist that is what one needs to strive for, even if you don’t succeed.

  9. Also, if you did have some issues with how THON weekend was operated, bring it to the attention of any member of the Overall Committee, captains or committee members instead of trying to start a blog war to get hits.

  10. And bloggers can’t commit acts of journalism? Stop living in the year 2000, old man.

    I bet you get more just as much info and news (if not more) from blogs these days compared to traditional media.

  11. I tweeted out that I thought THONward State provided the “best damn coverage” of THON around. I still believe that. Check out our live-blog, and let me know if it comes across to you there that we don’t believe in what Penn State does FTK.

  12. WE ARE... not sheep on

    As many have pointed out, it is not the criticism that sparked the negative response, but the source of criticism and way it was done. I myself have frequently questioned things that THON has done, and many committee members agreed whole-heartedly. I do not think his opinion is completely unwarranted, but perhaps a bit misguided.

  13. Melanie,
    Penn State alum’s comment is far from irrelevant.  You clearly don’t get it; why not read it again, this time without being defensive.  Have they not yet taught “irony”?

  14. Penn State alum on

    My point that I was trying to make is that Kevin criticized some student volunteers that they are in it for the wrong reasons and that they brag about their total, etc.

    What you tweeted was basically doing the same thing, so as an entire organization in OS that’s the irony I was trying to point out

  15. I started that conversation four years ago. Where have you been?

    My email address is [email protected]. I have a public profile on Twitter, as does virtually everyone on staff. We let people post on our Facebook wall and have regularly asked for suggestions on how we can better serve Penn State students through our social media presence and coverage on OnwardState.com. Since Day 1, we have strived to be transparent and responsive with our readers. Any time we have fallen short of that goal, we have been quick to explain what happened and address the issue so it doesn’t recur.

    I ask you, once again: Where have you been? 

  16. You don’t understand Onward State. I was at THON because I love Penn State and I believe in what we do FTK. I take pride in the fact that OS provided great coverage, because that’s how we get to show the nation that #WeStillAre. I wasn’t trying to brag about it, though, just like most people weren’t bragging about how much THON 2012 raised for the Four Diamonds Fund.

  17. Maybe, but THON is a charity, we’re a blog. THON’s about helping those kids, we’re about writing stuff on the interwebs, not quite the same thing. Irony averted.

  18. For a blog that thinks the school philly is immature or their opinions don’t matter, you put an awful lot of emphasis on mocking and subtly lashing back at their OPINIONS of your ridiculous articles.

  19. And providing Thon coverage bc it’s your responsibility y
    To your site, or supporting your friend IN Thon, does not equal supporting and understanding Thon.

  20. @Davis: I’m glad you responded in the way you did, because that is exactly my point.

    Your blog and its contributors have become so pretentious that the hubris and “circle-the-wagons” mentality when any criticism gets lobbed your way (outside of genuine fuck-ups, like Devon’s JoePa death report), gets met with a very insincere “thanks for your thoughts, but you’re wrong.”

  21. Trust me, we’ve been pretentious longer than you’ve been reading. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to feeback. What’s yours?

  22. I think this article is hilarious. It’s simply an attempt to have his “Bro’s” back and defrnd the site because of the backlash. Get outta here. You guys wrote an article criticizing Thon not bc u care about growing and changin for the good of the kids or Thon itself, but bc you wanted to write an article that you thought would be controversial but cause others to change their ideas of Thon and rally along with you. no one cares about your opinions when half of them are based on ignorance and clearly written with, for whatever reason, great resentment towards Thon.

  23. I’d be able to take them much more seriously if they didn’t have a history of being lackluster fact checkers…

  24. David,
    Nice deflection, but no, irony not averted.  Stop being so defensive.  And that goes for all the OS staff.  Irony was quite real, as PS alum pointed out.  Get over yourself, get a sense of humor, and realize that you are guilty of the same behavior as you accused THON members.  That’s crystal clear, no denying.  And please, OS, stop with this holier than thou “we are a blog” attitude that you think allows you to do or say whatever you choose without fault or responsibility.  It’s old, and it’s wrong.

  25. I think the point that Davis is trying to get across is that while Kevin may think of it as pretentious to brag about this year’s total, the rest of OS doesn’t necessarily feel the same way.  Individually, each of them might agree with him or think it’s entirely harmless.  For Davis to say that they provided the “best damn coverage” isn’t hypocritical of the entire site

  26. Click the names, then View Details. on

    There’s a large difference between being overly proud of a philanthropic endeavor (my school raised … What did yours do?) and being overly proud of a product (Onward State had the best coverage of THON. They did btw.). It’s a convenient equivalence to say they’re the same, but they are clearly not. One is altruistic and one has a distinctly capitalist purpose.

  27. He is completely correct. There was no true thought put into the original article. If he was doing it out of legitimate care for the event, he would have done his research instead of making several incorrect assumptions. I follow Onward State but in all honesty, this was just another publicity scheme.

  28. Really? It is their responsibility to cover THON? I think they did it because the love it and want to promote it, not because it is there responsibility. They changed their header promoting THON like a week before the event. They convert their whole theme to THONward state.  Did THON buy advertising with Onward State? Do you really think the few ads on the site pays their bills? Knowing what I do about the online advertising space, my bet is they generated about $150-300 in advertising revenue.  Their web servers cost more than that to run.  So again why is it their responsibility?  They had 15-20 people covering the event. Why? Why do they do what they do? Probably because they enjoy what they do, they care about Penn State and keeping their fellow students, alumni and fans informed. Just MHO.

  29. Really? It is their responsibility to cover THON? I think they did it because the love it and want to promote it, not because it is their responsibility. They changed their header promoting THON like a week before the event. They convert their whole theme to THONward state.  Did THON buy advertising with Onward State? Do you really think the few ads on the site pays their bills? Knowing what I do about the online advertising space, my bet is they generated about $150-300 in advertising revenue.  Their web servers cost more than that to run.  So again why is it their responsibility?  They had 15-20 people covering the event. Why? Why do they do what they do? Probably because they enjoy what they do, they care about Penn State and keeping their fellow students, alumni and fans informed. Just MHO.

  30. It’s not news that dealing with THON kids is difficult and at times unnerving. Honest conversation would be good if it was worth it, but it’s probably not at this point. 

    As for OS, it does a great job keeping readers up to date and has some good articles some times. I still haven’t figured out where the ridiculous op-ed pieces littered with curse words and misspellings fit in. 1 out of 10 is at least humorous, the rest is garbage.

  31. The Pseudo moral superiority of people who participate in THON is the only downfall of the event. You want to raise money to fight cancer? Great. But be humble about it, don’t make facebook pages bragging about it, don’t look down on people who donate and don’t participate, and don’t act holier than thou when a week before the event you were passed out face down in a toilet.

  32. How good was their “journalism” when they falsely reported JoePa’s death and that story was picked up by the national media.  That was one impressive act of journalism.

  33. I would think they covered THON because it’s Penn State and during THON weekend you really don’t have a choice.

  34. Don’t have a choice for what? You could make two posts. One saying THON starts today. One saying THON ended today and raised lots of money. – end.

  35. I’m all for coming up with ways to improve THON.  However Kevin, nor you ever do so.  You say it isn’t perfect, but you offer no solutions.  “Don’t find fault, find a remedy” -Henry Ford

    It’s easy to sit and write an article expressing your opinion of the shortcomings, it’s much harder to actually conjur up a way to fix them.  When you do I’m all ears, until then these articles do nothing but polarize the issue.  Choose a problem, find a solution, work to implement it.  Be part of a solution, not another part of the problem.  And as Kevin so poorly drones on about, don’t brag when it’s fixed, and don’t feel good either.  Cause altruism truly exists…yea..and unicorns.