2013: The End of THON as We Know It.

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BDQDBgrCcAASwA5My best friend growing up was diagnosed with Leukemia when we were in high school. Four Diamonds is a primary reason he was able to beat the disease and be cancer free for eleven years; long enough for me to stand in his wedding and, this summer, he to stand in mine. The financial and emotional support Four Diamonds gave him and his family throughout the worst times of their lives is immeasurable.

THON has been a part of their lives every day since he was diagnosed. He graduated from Penn State and danced at the THON, twice. His younger sisters organized mini-THONs at their middle and high schools. He was part of the “Where Are They Now” feature a few years ago because of his great success since winning the fight.

I opened this article on a personal note to establish that I am writing this article with a strong bias. I am not a “hater” or attention seeker going against the grain to get a reaction, I love THON. I am also not writing as a spiteful parent or college student who was locked out in the cold for hours, only to ultimately be turned away. I was able to attend THON, be on the floor, and cry with everyone else when the final numbers were revealed.

THON has grown from the White Building to the Bryce Jordan Center; it has gone from a grassroots effort to a global phenomenon. THON’s exponential growth in both popularity and fundraising are equally as hard to believe as they are impressive. However, without major policy changes these upward trends will end and it may happen as early as 2014. Four Diamonds has simply outgrown THON and one is going to suffer or hold back the other moving forward. THON, as we know it, has peaked.

Throughout the weekend the “capacity” issues at the Bryce Jordan Center were very well documented. Hundreds if not thousands of people were turned away Saturday and Sunday, some after waiting hours in sub-freezing conditions. Parents were unable to see their kids who were dancing, students were unable to support their classmates. Browsing social media it seemed everyone had a solution, but few were viable.

The solution to this issue is not a different venue. THON will never be held in Beaver Stadium unless Terry Pegula builds a dome over the top of it. THON will never be moved away from Penn State to larger venue, either. The solution is not modifying fire codes either; there were very few seats empty during the final hours, a testament to the fire marshal’s accurate count.

The solution to this issue it not requiring tickets to be purchased. The students’ passion for THON has remained a constant over the past $100 million dollars raised for Four Diamonds. Charging $5 or $10 for tickets will not deter even broke college students from standing in line for something they care so much about. Awareness of THON and overall size of the student body has grown, but not enough over the past year to cause the issues in 2013 that were non-existent in 2012.

The solution is revising THON’s policies regarding the most sensitive topic of them all: the families. Four Diamonds added 90 new families last year, and 30 of those families attended THON for the first time in 2013. A family pass allows any holder to enter and exit the building throughout the weekend; for example, they can leave for Make-A-Wish events, campus tours, etc and re-enter without standing in line. However, these family passes must be considered “present bodies” at all times according to fire code laws so the Bryce Jordan Center is never at capacity and a Four Diamonds family is left outside.

The problem is as Four Diamonds matures, the number of THON family passes continue to grow as well. THON recognizes not only the siblings and parents of Four Diamonds survivors, but eventually their spouse and/or children. That equals a lot of “present bodies” counted that may or may not physically be in the building. Sunday is the most popular day families register to attend, explaining line of students at 4am Sunday morning waiting to get into a building that was at capacity, even with most people home or in hotels sleeping.

THON has always been, and will always be, For The Kids. The Four Diamonds families can’t be cut out of THON for this among many more obvious reasons. Although it is clear the current model is unsustainable. As family passes grow it adversely affects the number of students able to attend, and neither Four Diamonds nor the Penn State student body are getting any smaller.

So here we are, at a crossroads for the most successful student run philanthropy event in the history of the world. Will THON continue to cater to the families of the Four Diamonds foundation? Is it possible to simultaneously respect the new families’ right to attend as well as the veteran families’ wishes to continue to experience an event that has meant so much to them. Four Diamond Families will always want to attend THON, and nobody can blame them.

If THON continues with this status quo, it will result in alienating the student body and encouraging scenarios where their health is at risk. The fewer students who are able to attend THON directly leads to fewer students who will be interested in THON in the future. Those dedicated enough will go even further to try to be part of THON, leading to students risking their lives as they did this weekend when the EMS was called to treat hypothermia for those hoping to get inside.

Deciding to alienate the students who work year round or the parents and kids who THON is focused on helping is not an easy decision. Either way, THON needs to change. Since the students raise the money, it would be a riskier endeavor to continue to ignore their needs. I hope THON will find a way to continue to prosper, but something has to give. The question is what.

All we know for certain is this year was the end of THON as we know it.

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  1. I know a THON family that has had passes for 20 years after the death of their 4 Diamond child. Its hard for me to write this, but yeah it should be considered whether they need full weekend family passes. But I don’t know if giving them the boot for a random college student is appropriate. But dancer parents should have certain access too.

    • couldnt agree with you more. a friend suggested adding a “dancer parent” pass that would enter at a different gate (Gate A = General Admission, Gate B = Parents, Mezzanine = Families)

    • Still Coming to THON on

      That is not a solution either and shouldn’t be considered. Even 6 years after my child’s death, my family is still adopted by the same orgs. Limiting us is limited the time we spend with our orgs who have worked so hard to support my other two kids who still have a chance of getting cancer some day. My orgs still fight for my kids.

  2. I don’t believe that the solution is reducing any of the family passes. Despite the increasing number of family passes, the total is still minuscule compare to the 15,000+ capacity of the BJC. Instead, I think they should have students sign up for time slots in advance, and find a fair way of allotting the slots. One way they could do it is take all the organizations that have dancers and give out a proportional number of time slots to the size of those organizations. For everyone else, they could give out a number of time slots proportional to the number of independent dancers. This would give everyone a fair shot at getting in and cut down on the confusion. A system like this would inevitably not allow people to be there 20 hours a day to support their dancers. However, because the space is so limited, it isn’t fair that some non-dancers are in the BJC for the whole time while others freeze in the cold. It’s great that so many people are passionate about THON, but when there are 30,000 passionate people and 15,000 seats, people either have to switch out or alienate others. There’s no way around it.

    • I agree with your overall point, but if students sign up for time slots, who is going to want 3-5am on Saturday?

      • If they were truly there to support the dancers and THON they would not care what time they were allotted.

      • KrisB is right, if I know for sure I can get in 3-5AM and spend time with my dancer, I’m there and I will happily clear out at 5 AM so another group can come in. That’s better than showing up and maybe waiting on line and never getting in.

    • And what happens when all of the families decide to come at the same time? And those people that were allocated slots for that time are turned away because of capacity issues?

      Then there are no slots for those people because everything has been ‘allocated’

      Unfortunately this is just another extremely flawed solution to a very difficult problem.

      • What I am proposing would assume that all the families were there all the time. It wouldn’t affect the THON families at all. If you have ever been to any Disney park, I’m sure you’re familiar with the fast pass system. You basically schedule when you want to go on each ride in advance so you don’t have to wait in line. The system works for parks what have to deal with up to 80,000 people. There is no reason such a system couldn’t work for THON, which has at best half as many people.

    • If the people freezing out in the cold were willing to put in the 20+ hours of the others they wouldn’t have been in that position, telling someone they can only spend so much time at THON is ridiculous

      • Many were those same people. It is a completely undeniable fact that there are more people that are devoted to THON than can fit inside. While it’s great that so many people want to be there, it is somewhat selfish to stay the whole time when there are 10,000 people as devoted as you are sitting out in the cold, including the families of some of the dancers.

    • Possibly consider using the 10,000 seat Pegula Ice Arena for an over flow venue and live stream on the jumbo Trons it’ll probably have. I’m pretty sure the overalls can come up with ways to fire up another 10,000 people right across the road!

  3. The ticket solution doesn’t have to deter students, but help keep an accurate head count. They can still be free, letting the families and organisations get first pick, have some tickets not allow reentry, others can last all weekend.

    • The head count was pretty accurate. The last few hours on Sunday, there were very few empty seats

      • That was Sunday, and of course everyone was in there during the last few hours: the biggest event in THON. But what about the problems earlier in the weekend? They started Saturday evening!

        Organizations were still saving seats for members who were not being allowed into the BJC at all, while annoucements were being made “move in”

        It becomes a dilemna: on one hand, it’s “not fair” that those who have worked, went out canning, don’t get to experience the whole thing with their organization, but on the other, it’s still not fair that organizations got away with doing that when people who weren’t in seats were being kicked out.

        That said, there was a true show of THON spirit of selflessness and organization when orgs got dancer families and friends onto the floor despite the difficulties just getting into the Bryce Jordan. I have faith in the committees that these issues will be solved and we won’t see this kind of dissapointment again.

  4. Parent of a Dancer on

    My son, a senior, danced this year. I was in BJC for about 6 hours Saturday and got shut out Sunday. I never made it to the floor to be with him (would have required a minimum 3 hour wait in a concourse line on Saturday) and that will always be a huge sadness in my life. I would have traded the ‘seat time’ for one hour on the floor with my son. Perhaps floor time can be scheduled and there can be a separate floor section for the short timer visitors. That would eliminate the problem someone mentioned, finding folks whose floor passes expired and gently moving them out so the next group can come in.

  5. I danced this year, and it was, and always will be, one of the proudest experiences of my life. However, I am extremely saddened that my parents, dedicated supporters of THON, were not able to be there Sunday to watch the final hours of the most important weekend of my young life. The people that the dancers need to see most (parents, best friends, significant others) should never be turned away, especially in the later hours of the weekend when most of us hit the wall. I agree with whoever said it, there needs to be dancer family/friend passes. Yes, this would add to the body count, but these passes could be shared with students within the organization when the parents aren’t using them. My organization did a remarkable job getting our loved ones on the floor (if they were able to get into the building), so it is definitely possible to manage these passes without having a huge impact on general admission.

    • This is not a logistically possible solution. Giving a pass to one person per dancer is another 700 passes. We need to reduce the number of people, not increase it. You say that you will manage them and it will all work out but that isn’t how it will play out. That will never work.

  6. THON isn’t about the dancers, their friends, and certainly not their parents. If the omnipresent motto is to believed, it is “for the kids.” Your editorial completely loses sight of this. It seems, more and more every year, that THON has become an opportunity for self aggrandizement, not self sacrifice. Nobody made students and dancer families wait in the cold until they became hyptothermic, those folks could have stayed home and watched the live stream, without affecting the donation total or the diversion from a harsh reality the event provides Four Diamonds families. If anyone should be present at THON, it should be Four Diamonds kids and their families.

    To the “Parent of a Dancer” who didn’t get to spend time on the floor with her/his child; while your circumstance is unfortunate, I suspect you and your child will live. This may or may not be true for the intended beneficiaries of THON, gravely ill children and their families. You can be proud of your son for his accomplishment, and I hope you can talk about it with him for years to come all the while wishing you had been there. Some Four Diamonds parents will have to settle for being proud of their childs fight, one they may or may not win.

    • Yeah, Seriously on

      He isn’t talking about the kids that THON is about, he is talking about the kid who has grown up and is now 30 years old and still bringing him his parents, brothers, sisters, spouse, and kids. It’s not trying to take away from the kids or their families, but at this point is he really a kid anymore? THON is FTK (For the Kids) and we would still be giving them the support and wonderful weekend they can enjoy, but why can’t their be a cut off point, once a Four Diamond child gets to be say 25? They can enter and exit the BJC just like the rest of the crowd. They can still be given floor passes, but maybe given a specific time to be on the floor. If nothing is done eventually kids will lose interest in THON. We like to see the fruits of our labor and if kids who raise money for THON all year long can’t go and be a part of the celebration, what’s going to keep them involved? And if freshman never get in, how will they know how wonderful THON really is?

      • Okay to the first comment couldnt agree more. you people don’t understand. my family is a four diamonds family and WE WILL ALWAYS BE APART OF THON. Also if you had any insight on the four diamonds fund when a patient turns 18 the are out of the four diamonds but you who commented second have no insight at all. freshman get in, you obviously know nothing. my family’s org has freshman all throughout THON weekend and you just dont get it and youre looking for it through a awful perspective. im really shocked right now that youre more concerned with students then the kids, everyone matters but its “FTK” am i right? learn more about it before assuming also dont get rid of those who faught for their lives! ridiculous!

      • I am that 30 year old 4D kid and I still enjoy THON. I had independent dancers that I helped out with all weekend and the only people come up with me is my boyfriend and neice (she wants to be involved in THON when she goes to PSU in 2 years). I was highly involved in THON myself when I was a PSU student. Danced, involved in the communication commitee, and FR committee. There are things that some of the families and I have discussed. There just might be too many people on some of the committees. I don’t know how many times we have seen some committees where they are just standing around doing nothing. Rules and Regs, and Hospitality. I understand the students want to come in and be involved, but us older 4D children shouldn’t be cut off just because we are old. Its just not fair and we are going by the rules with only have a handful of people that are on our pass.

        • As a former Family Relations Captain I think one thing people do not realize is how important you and other veteran families are. For some of these new families, For some new Four Diamonds families THON weekend is their first real THON experience. We as FR Captains try to do our best to accommodate the new families, get them involved, and make them feel welcome, but sometimes it is not enough. This is why it is important to have a strong veteran family community at THON. We need families who have been there before, to help us. It doesn’t matter if the Four Diamond child is 12, 22, or 42, they and their families are invaluable assets to new families at THON.

      • Where is your cut off? My child died 3 years ago, my daughter is graduating from PSU this spring after dancing twice, and being a captain twice, are we now cut off? How do you make that call? THON has been the place we went together as a family starting in 2003. It was more important than any holiday or vacation. This was our fourth without our son but words cannot explain how important it was to us to be there, with our dancers,org, alum, nurses and doctors. So where would I be on your list?

      • “We like to see the fruits of our labor and if kids who raise money for
        THON all year long can’t go and be a part of the celebration, what’s
        going to keep them involved?” …

        Yeah, Seriously… To respond to this in a manner that I don’t come across wrong is important to me, because it broke my heart today to read that families should be cut off at some point, and that families are “catered to”. Those sentiments came across insensitive to me, and I don’t want to come across insensitive to any students who work all year long for Thon because I realize all the hard work you put into Thon. But I speak from the heart when I say that I believe what will keep the students involved is knowing that they are doing the right thing for those families who didn’t ask to be put in this situation with their children in the first place. We are your worst nightmare. One day, you can be us… and I wouldn’t wish that on any one of you. Also, knowing that students are making a difference in The Four Diamonds families lives who have children with cancer, had children with cancer, or lost their Four Diamonds child to cancer will keep them involved. Knowing that Thon is a huge part of Penn State, and the majority of the students have the best interests of the family in their hearts would hopefully keep students involved with Thon. If students “lose interest in Thon” as you say, because only some of them can come into the BJC, then maybe they are involved with Thon for the wrong reasons.

        We families are grateful for all the hard work from each and every student.

  7. why can’t each dancer get 2 passes – they can give to their parents, friends or whomever they choose? And in response to “Seriously” – yes THON is FTK yet without the dancers, friends, parents – there would be no THON. Although the $ is for the FDF, none of this could be possible without everyone. I danced twice back in White Building and although I think it’s great how big it’s gotten and how much $ is raised each year, I do think it looked so crowded. Can dancers even see people up in the crowds?? Can dancers even find each other on the floor? I agree a lot has changed and I’m not sure it’s all for the better.

  8. I danced in ’07 and it would have been much harder had my parents and friends (some of whom stayed with me during the difficult sunday morning hours and really got me through that) not been able to come in. I know I danced through my sorority and we had to give a list of people that would visit us ahead of time, and from there our sorority worked out the different time slots that each dancer would have visitors. There definitely needs to be a better way of dividing the lines/admission between people that actually have floor passes, Four Diamonds families, committee members/captains, and general admission.

  9. As an independent dancer THON weekend I experienced how difficult it was to not be able to have my family on the floor throughout the weekend and I had people drive from very far just to stand outside in the cold for hours unable to enter the BJC. The support of friends and family is very critical for the dancers and something should be done to improve the current system. However, I would much rather give up having my family on the floor than to see a four diamonds family told they could no longer attend the event as they pleased. We are dancing for them and they are our greatest inspiration and this event should always put the families first. A possible solution would be to improve communication with the families. Rather then counting them as a constant in the capacity they could communicate with an overall on what days they would be attending and if there were times (middle of the night) when they would definitely not be attending. This simple improvement in communication could allow the capacity to more accurately measure the people present, instead of people who might show up.

    In addition, when looking at who should have their time more limited on the floor, THON should look at the excessive number of committee members on the floor who were not serving any purpose. If you want to allow more different students to experience THON and allow dancers access to their families and vital supporters that weekend, the number of committee members on the floor and the lengths of their shifts should be shortened. Many committee members do not have a real purpose on the floor THON weekend (comm, finance, SE, many of the PR members) because they work on different things throughout the year. The floor time is just a reward for their work during the year, but with the large number of students who work through the year and still have to wait in line to enter the building and the floor, they should not be given so much time on the floor just for fun. Many organizations work just as hard fundraising and supporting the families throughout the year and they do not get the same guaranteed BJC and floor access. In addition the number of students on the floor for certain committees is excessive. I understand the desire to allow the maximum number of students to get involved but it doesn’t take an R&R member every five feet to keep the order. There were constantly 35+ of them around the stage, 50+ around the fences along the sides, 2 outside of every door or entrance, 2 per every staircase in the stands (even the empty ones) and 10 in the hallway of dancer storage. People understand the concept of a fence/closed or locked door/do not enter sign without 20 people in red shirts telling them that. This number was just ridiculous because the majority of the weekend they just stood around and talked to each other. There are over 1,000 R&R members and this number could be significantly cut, especially since during the entire 46 hours of THON I never saw one R&R member who actually needed to do something on the floor. I understand the event needs some security but this number could be about a quarter of what it currently is without compromising safety at all. In addition the majority of the OPP committee members are not necessary that weekend. If things could be more coordinated so a large number could come down specifically for mopping and the rest of the weekend a much smaller number would be on the floor. Other than during slides of strength I mostly saw OPP members hanging out in the middle of the floor talking to each other. When the floor space is so limited it is very upsetting to see people just wasting space and not helping anyone for the MAJORITY of the weekend, when actual supporters cannot even get into the building. All the students involved are equally as important and floor time shouldn’t just be handed to committee members who don’t serve any purpose.

    Another way to solve the current issue specifically with the floor pass system would be to shorten the amount of time allowed on the floor per pass. With THON growing so large and so many people wanting to get down on the floor, shortening the length of time per pass from 3 hours to 1 hour would allow the line to move more quickly and more people who have floor passes to actually be able to gain access to the floor. Dancers need support but more than having someone for 3 hours at once I would have rather wanted to get more people total down on the floor for the weekend.

    In addition, family of dancers should be on a separate floor pass with a separate line than all other organization members. This would allow the most important people for the dancers to see the ability to get on the floor more easily when they need them the most, instead of people who are just coming down to experience the floor. They are able to do this for Overalls (people on overall passes were never turned away from the floor or forced to wait in line for 6+ hours just to have the floor closed down) so some sort of exceptions should be made for family that come out to support the dancers over general organization members.

    For entering the BJC they should have two separate entrances Gate A for org members/general admissions, Gate B for family of dancers so they could make sure these people had the chance to come into the BJC at some point in the weekend. Many families come from far away to support their dancers and having your family there lifts your spirits in a way a friend you see everyday at Penn State cannot.

    Another possibility would be to give each dancer two wrist bands/passes that could be given to the two people they want to have in the BJC most that weekend. These 1400 people would have priority access the BJC over the general admissions so they could be there for the dancers when they most need it. This is not a huge sacrifice capacity wise to ensure that at least a dancer’s two parents would get the chance to see everything the dancer worked for all year and be there to support the dancers when they need it the most.

    I know this is a lot but as a dancer this year I had 46 hours to reflect on all of the things that could be improved upon. Cutting the time allowed for four diamonds families is not the answer, especially when so many other changes could be made. I do not hate committee members, before dancing I spent two years on committees, but I do feel they are favored THON weekend over the thousands of other student volunteers in organizations (who raise the majority of the money).

    • I completely agree with you on many counts.

      But just clarify: families that are not present in the BJC are not counted in capacity.

      • Not true. Families that have registered for passes are automatically counted in the capacity, even if they are not present.

        • Not sure where you are getting your information. All families receive passes on arrival to the BJC and then check them out when they leave. That is how capacity is kept track of, unfortunately you are just another uninformed spectator.

          • I have attended THON five times with a family pass, so I would not consider myself uninformed about how the process works. While you are correct that the passes are checked in and out, they are always considered to be present bodies, or else the situation may present itself where a family is unable to check back in because BJC is already at capacity.

          • I encourage you to email and Overall and become more educated on the topic. Because unfortunately it is people like you who cause the issues of ‘knowing what they’re taking about’, when quite clearly they don’t

    • The problem with not counting families when you know they won’t be there is that these times are not capacity issues, I saw no issues from 2-6 Saturday and the issues Sunday morning were for people coming for the end, so they won’t be leaving at 8am Sunday morning when all the families come and need to get in

    • Just want to clarify that I was on an Overall Pass list, and I was turned away on Sunday morning. We weren’t automatically allowed into the doors. :-)

      • I think that comment was addressing the pass system only, not the general issues with capacity of the BJC. Overall pass holders have priority to the floor over general org pass holders and if this can be done for the overall pass holders it should be done at least for the family members of dancers

  10. How about a spring weekend at Beaver stadium with the events being broadcast around stadium grounds. Fairer weather and the ability to utilize outside space for event activities such as merchandise ect.. would. definitely make negotiating the barriers easier. There are also many more seats.Who determined it had to be winter?

    • Holding an outdoor event puts the safety of the dancers in jeopardy. How do you react if it is raining? Even summer rains are unbearable if exposed to the elements for 46 hours

    • The problem is that the weather still sucks in the spring. You might get a weekend that’s 70 and sunny, but it could also be 45 and raining any time in April

  11. We really need to start with the amount of alumni invited back. Every single former Overall and Captain gets an automatic floor pass? Why? They are no longer students and got their premium floor access as a student VOLUNTEER.

    I can understand the overalls with floor passes, but captains? No.

    • Captains got a floor pass from 2-6 am Sunday and only the year right after being a captain, also if we were not already in the BJC we were left out in the cold with everyone else

    • That isn’t accurate at all. Former Captain passes are very limited both by number of passes and by number of hours. Overalls also don’t receive too much special privilege as there were some turned away just like many other people this past weekend. Past Captain passes are good for 4 hours during the middle of the night and are extended to a few hundred Captains.

  12. I understand dancing is difficult, I danced in ’11, but dancing is a privilege, there are a lot of people who try to dance and can’t, for a dancer to feel so entitled as to think their parents deserve priority over a THON family (no matter how old they are) is preposterous. Cutting down the number of people on a committee is probably the only option, however this really only effects the floor capacity minimally. Many people in my org on committees stayed most of the time in the stands between shifts, so they didn’t effect capacity by being on a committee. Ultimately it’s just going to become an all night requirement if you want to see the final four hours. While that is difficult it is just the way it is, THON cannot move, charging will make virtually no difference (who wouldn’t pay $20 for the last four hours), and to even suggest telling families to leave is missing the point of THON

  13. I say move it to april and into beaver stadium! Maybe incorporate the spring game? Idk would be off the hook tho

    • But what happens when it’s 40 degrees and pouring rain Saturday night and Sunday morning? If half the dancers made it through that without needing to go to the hospital it would be a miracle. It can still get quite cold in April.

  14. What a stupid and thoughtless thing to say! This will never end but like every event, things do need to be tweaked and Thon is no exception. The one thing that should never, ever change is allowing ALL Four Diamond families to attend as current and past should be the first priority. Afterall, this is about them. Not the families of the dancers!

    Limit floor passes to 1 hour. Committee members do not need to be on the floor. Have a separate entrance for Four Diamond families. Heaters for those standing in line outside.

    If my daughter was dancing, I would want to see her, but I would never, ever want to take the place of a Four Diamond family who should be there. This is not about me, this is about them!! FOR THE KIDS!!!

  15. I think you need to have each dancer gets 2 “VIP” passes. There would then be 2 lines to get in to BJC with one general line and one VIP line. When people leave the BJC, the VIP line gets in first so that parents and friends can be with the dancers. Everyone else gets in based on availability. It’s not fair to turn away four diamonds families but it is fair to give so many passes to family and friends of dancers to ensure they have the support system needed for the weekend.

  16. Thon should definitely be moved to a warmer month. The students waited in lines in freezing cold temperatures for 5 hours to get in on Sunday morning. That is just ridiculous. So many people want to attend the event, maybe it shouldn’t be mandatory that students be there for 8 hour shifts. Security should have given out numbers to those kids in line and they should have been shuttled to a warm facility to wait for a shuttle to take them back. Someone should have helped the kids outside that canned in freezing cold temperatures also. I am so upset about the entire thing. All the people inside didn’t care at all about all the students outside waiting to get in.

    • Exactly. A system like you are proposing would work. It is no longer needed or helpful for people to stay inside so long. Maybe it once was in order to keep the place full, but those days are clearly behind us.

    • If they were to move it to the Spring, they could have a band play music outside to keep the waiting people entertained.

  17. Christina-4D survivor on

    I am a thirty year old Four Diamonds kid who still comes back to THON. I suffer from long term effects from the cancer/chemotherapy that my insurance won’t cover because they’re pre-existing. I also still have to see my oncologist annually because I was on an experimental treatment. My insurance doesn’t cover those either. Four Diamonds still picks up those costs for me, they say “once a Four Diamonds kid, always”. I can’t even begin to describe what that means to my family and I. When I come to THON, it means just as much if not more to me now than when I was a kid. I didn’t understand the magnitude of what they did for my family at 14, but I understand fully now. I look forward to thanking the dancers, supporting them, getting to go to the adult Four Diamonds meeting and having the chance to talk to other survivors. I just want people to understand that some of us adult 4D kids still benefit. I am eternally grateful to every single person who is a part of this incredible thing called THON, which has surely become a lifestyle to all involved and 4D.
    This year there was one family in particular that seemed to be abusing the floor pass system. They had twelve passes. There are four people in their family. They brought their four person family, grandma, four past dancers (who have graduated and were in the family lounge and south annex for family meals), one past dancers boyfriend, and another past dancers friend and mom. Tell me how that is fair to other 4D families who are getting denied for actual family or to the dancers who really need support, especially in the final hours.

  18. As I think back about this past weekend, I remember attending our first and only Thon with Colby at the White Building in 1997. We outgrew the White Building and moved on to Rec Hall, and proceeded to outgrow Rec Hall. I couldn’t help but think that Rec Hall would make the perfect location for a live feed from the BJC as a spill over location for Thon. It could be the 2nd Thon party place for those who don’t make it into BJC so that they could be part of Thon and could be kept safe and warm. They can dance FTK along with big screens as they telecasts the event. I was going to suggest it on the Thon survey when it comes out to the families because I thought it could be a possible solution to the long lines I witnessed this weekend. I truly felt bad for those standing in the cold, but as a family, felt loved by the Penn State community of students once again.

    But then I read this article from Onward State… and went on to read the comments. After reading it, I was
    sad to think that veteran families such as ours could be asked to not
    participate at Thon anymore as a growing concern from the students. Surely, if this is the
    mentality of one student, there could be more. For Onward State to write that we are “Catered to” as families pulls at my heartstrings. It all brings a tear to my eye. Unfortunately, my family would be
    one of those families asked not to come back because we hit some sort of
    time limit on how long we could be a Four Diamonds Family because “we
    are” one of those older families that was mentioned. In all the years we have been coming to Thon, this is the first time comments from students, and Onward State tugged at my heart. Heart tugs are nothing new at Thon, but it’s usually for obvious other reasons during Thon. Not for feeling that some how we’ve outstayed our welcome.

    We are a bereaved family whose child earned
    their wings 16 years ago this coming March. Colby would be 21. His battle with Stage IV Neuroblastoma ended after 2 1/2 years when he was 5 1/2 years old. Although it would break our
    hearts, if it was decided that we needed to step aside, we would gladly step aside for new families who have
    begun their journey to make more room for them, as well as the students who feel they need to be at Thon so that Thon doesn’t die because students would stop supporting it because they couldn’t get in to the BJC. I have been enlightened by those today who wrote on here that students will lose interest if they can no longer get into the BJC during Thon. That is not something any of the families who benefited from Thon would hope for. I think this is far reaching, because students work so hard for the Four Diamonds families, but if that is the thinking from some Penn State students right now, we will do our part and step aside to make more room if asked to. Although I thought all the families were the reason for Thon and the Four Diamonds Fund, we certainly are not royalty, We are just Four Diamonds families whose children have or had cancer. Some of our children are still here, some are not. My kids have grown up at Thon, but they will get over the loss of not being part of Thon if they had to. Life is about loss sometimes, as we have come to know. I love that we have had the same organization, Arnold Air Society, that has supported us
    since 1994, and I know that they would be a tremendous support for a new
    family, as they were to us. They will always be part of our family for years to come and have become a huge blessing in our lives. The students who we’ve come to know and love over the years who are involved with Thon will always remain close to our hearts.

    I know that Thon
    is about sacrificing FTK in every sense of the word. Not just standing in long lines on Thon weekend, but every canning weekend in cold and unpleasant weather most of the times. We know that it’s a year long effort from the students. If given the choice, Four Diamonds families would never have chosen to go down this path and watch our children endure this hardship. We appreciate everything the students have done for our families, and we will always be grateful for the blessings and support that have come from all their hard work over the years for families like ours.

    I’m truly sorry so many students did not get into Thon this year. But hopefully students who felt cheated that they didn’t
    get into Thon because there were too many families can forgive us. Parents who didn’t get to see your children on the floor, I’m truly sorry that you didn’t get to support them when they needed you. I would hope the family that they were dancing for took your place to make sure they were supported. And if your child’s org didn’t have a family, I would hope a Four Diamonds Family saw that your child needed them and gave them encouragement. Our family lovingly takes ownership in all 700+ dancers as a Four Diamonds Family and we try to encourage any of them with our love during Thon. I give thanks that your child is healthy, and alive to have danced FTK, and that is your blessing, as well as ours. I have friends who are parents that were upset that they couldn’t get in to support their son, and my heart went out to them as they are huge supporters of Thon and are proud of what their son accomplished as are we. I knew they weren’t alone.

    I will always be thankful for the blessings that have come our way
    from Thon and Four Diamonds and Penn State. Coming to Thon all these years has been like coming home to Colby and our support system. The Thon community has always wrapped our souls in love and taken care of us. They have been our “soul tenders”. Grief became our journey, and we were never alone with all of you on the journey with us. We are thankful that THON remembers Colby, and shares him with the world because his life was important, and Thon make sure everyone there knows it, not just us.

    There are too many families, you are right. But one day, this could be your family too when you have your own children. Be proud of your efforts for all you have done in the fight for childhood cancer. Be proud of the support you and the Penn State Alum who supported Thon before you, gives the families. There are too many families there because there is too much childhood cancer. Thank you Thon for your continued support of all our families over the years. May we one day dance in celebration that childhood cancer is cured.

    • You and your family shouldn’t be the ones stepping aside. Students should be stepping aside for other students. While most people have their heads in the right place, it’s clear from these comments as well as comments from other places that some students feel that they’re on a moral high ground because they raised X amount of dollars, even though there are people waiting hours outside that have raised the same amount or more. The same goes for the people outside that had to be removed by police for cutting the line because they think they are somehow more entitled to be at THON than everyone else. THON families should always be able to come, and limited numbers of family or friends of dancers should be able to get in for at least a few hours. But when a minority of students treat getting into THON like 5 year olds as a piñata, it is inappropriate.

      • Thank you… xoxo. When something is written to remove older families without much forethought to what that family will feel like when they read it, it does come across like an insensitive slap in the face to those families who make up this Thon Varsity Team of families… and that’s when Savannah, a dear friend to so many of us bereaved families, and our former bereavement chair for Thon last year talks us off the ledge! She helped me to realize that the volunteers who run Thon for the families do not share the same sentiment as those who wrote it on here.

        • I have to admit that, at first, I was one of the people that thought that older 4d children shouldn’t get preferential access to THON. But, at that time I didn’t realize how much emotional support these families still needed all these years later. Also I didn’t realize that some of these children continue to receive financial assistance many years after they’ve been cured of there cancer.

    • I think your families and other veteran Four Diamond Families are the last people who should ever be asked to leave or limit floor passes. As a THON captain this year who spent over 60 hours at the BJC, I was unable to see my parents for more than 5 minutes. Was my weekend a little bit difficult without my parents? Sure. But was your fight and the fight of Colby one million times harder? Absolutely. I would sacrifice every pass on my pass list to give them to MORE Four Diamond Family members. I promise you that not all students or THON volunteers feel the way the individual who wrote this article do. We do this for you. THON weekend is for you and your families. It isn’t about the Captains or the dancers or the orgs that raise large sums of money. THON is for the families and the kids who have had their lives changed by this horrible disease. Please don’t ever feel like you’ve overstayed your welcome because we do this for you. The opinion of one individual who clearly doesn’t understand why we do what we do, is not how the entire THON community feels.

      • Judy, I have received a lot feedback about this article since it was published, so let me clarify a few things. 1) I am an alumna, so the opinions of this article are only mine and not representative of the current PSU student body 2) I never intended this article to say family passes need to be limited in any way. I wrote it to make people aware of the challenges that THON must deal with in order to continue its amazing success… I hope I get the chance to meet you at next year’s THON, which I will attend and continue to support 4D’s efforts in memory of Colby

        • Thanks for reaching out to me Ryne. I guess you’ll always remember the editorial you wrote that poked a stick into the Four Diamond’s Behive the week after Thon! So many opinions, but i guess that’s what editorials are all about. It warmed my heart to see so many come to a Four Diamond Family defense here. For that, I feel loved. I’ve been assured from committee members that the opinion of one to discontinue floor passes for older families is not what the Thon committees and volunteers feel. I know that the committees for 2014 will come up with a plan.

          Maybe next year, you can do an endearing editorial on why these veteran families keep coming back to Thon for all these years. People might be surprised by the answers. The support from the Thon community, our organizations, the medical staff that come to Thon, and the other Four Diamond families is the fiber in the thread that binds us together and makes us whole again. There are so many families in different parts of their journey, and there are pieces of us everywhere. Thon helps to put the pieces back together, no matter where you are on your journey.

    • Judy…you are my friend and you took the time to come talk to Springfield canners last fall at my house. You gave them a different perspective on how you continue to give back to 4D. You help current families going through what you went through many years ago with Colby. Yes, we were heartbroken not to be able to see Mark on that last day. I think the reason most parents were upset was because there was an expectation that we would be able to get in and to be on the dance floor at some point. Many parents spent a lot of money travelling to Penn State. I would rather have stayed home to allow a 4D family the space and donated the money that I would have spent on the hotel, gas, and food. Some people have chastised parents of dancers as wrongly feeling “entitled”, but some of us have gone the extra mile to by hosting canners several times…we knew many of the people in our son’s organization! There are no easy answers, but I would suggest that THON 2014 come up with a priority system for entrance to the building and to the floor. I truly believe that our presence in the BJC Saturday was a blessing to our son, but would he have been fine without us? Sure. Again, it was expectations vs. reality. We are over it…hopefully the new leaders of THON will find the constructive criticism for what it is and not allow it to take away all the good…the number one priority are the kids and it should always be them and their families.

    • No body is or has suggested that people should get preferential treatment over the 4D families. Some people are just suggesting that that the families of the dancers should be treated better.

  19. I am a senior this year and I was so excited for my last THON as a student. My friend and I were there for 11 hours saturday, went back to his dorm to sleep for a few hours, and were back at the BJC at 5 Sunday morning to stay until the end. We thought 5am was early enough, but were not able to get in. Were we sad to miss the ending our senior year? Absolutly! But we were also extremely proud to be a part of a school and an organization that would fill the BJC to capacity FOR THE KIDS! This didn’t make up upset at THON, and we would never consider telling the Four Diamonds families, past of present, that they are not welcome. This experience made up that much more determined for next year. I AM going to be in the BJC for the final hours eventually. Next year we are planning on getting there by midnight or 1 Sunday morning so that we can be there. Also, even after being turned away I want to be even more involved. I am planning on joining the alumni group….and hopefully dancing in the future. I love calling my family in California and telling them how much money my school raised FOR THE KIDS. Being turned away does not make me lose interest in THON. People need to remember the meaning of THON. FTK!!

  20. “The mission of the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon is to conquer pediatric cancer by providing outstanding emotional and financial support to the children, families, researchers, and staff of the Four Diamonds Fund.”

    Until that mission statement changes, you have to realize that THON is always going to put the families first (as it should). Your suggestions of reducing the amount of family passes pretty much directly contradict the mission statement of THON, which is why they won’t be utilized. Critics need to realize that THON is not about the students, it’s not about the dancers or the dancers’ families, it’s about the kids. Are there viable ways to fix the pass system? I would imagine so, and they will probably discussed at length by the 2014 Overall Committee. But the eventual solution will certainly not be something that puts the needs of a student over a Four Diamonds Family.