I knew about THON and canning before I ever even stepped foot on Penn State’s campus. I come from a town included in the infamous “outside of Philly,” area, where canning is frequent during the fall months. I remember watching students jump around on street corners in ridiculous outfits, earning every cent that was placed in their cans. I couldn’t wait to be one of them.
Then came the fall of my freshman year and I finally got my chance. I picked the second trip. It fell in November and, of course, the weather was terrible. I was ill-prepared and stood in the freezing rain and snow for hours on end, briefly going inside to combat frostbite. Canning is harder than students make it look. Staying energetic and happy, especially in a freezing downpour, is not easy. Although it may be one of the more difficult things I’ve done in my life thus far, it was also one of the most rewarding.
It hit me when we shuffled into our host’s home and counted our earnings at the end of the day. We made several thousand dollars and suddenly I could no longer remember how my feet hurt or how my face was pink with windburn. When the 2015 THON total was revealed I smiled, reflecting on my small contribution. It mattered.
I intended to go on another canning trip last year, but just like many of you, I never got the chance. The tragic car accident that resulted in the death of Tally Sepot turned the Penn State and THON communities upside down. Since then, there have been several controversial changes made to THON fundraising procedures, including the eventual elimination of canning by 2019.
Although many of us are unhappy with this change, it seems there is nothing we can do. The only thing we can do for the time being is can while we still have the chance. It sounds simple, but at this point enjoying the few remaining canning weekends is all we have left.
Soon, there will be a generation of Penn State students who will never experience canning. They won’t dance on street corners, travel to new towns, or spend hours counting the bills and coins they’ve gathered. And they won’t be able to fully appreciate the experience they’ll be missing.
So in honor of them, if you have the chance to go canning, you should. Do it for the kids that are fighting cancer everyday, but also do it for the generations of Penn Staters who collectively spent hundreds of thousands of hours on street corners bonding over one of THON and Penn State’s greatest traditions.
Someday a little girl will grow up in my neighborhood never knowing what “canners” are. She will never see the love and compassion it spreads. So this weekend I will travel home with my own group of canners to show my town what has been noticeably absent for a year. It’s sad to think about how this could change in three short years. But I’m optimistic with a strong enough response, THON could potentially reconsider.