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THONconomics – Looking Forward

At this point last week, many of us were recovering from sleep deprived delirium, as THON had just ended. After having a week to cool down from the hype and hysteria of THON weekend, I started to wonder about what was in store for THON in the future.

Consider this year’s total: $7,838,054.36, roughly a 4.6% increase from last year. Given a recession and a rather botched canning weekend (stupid snow), this was a major achievement and represented a ton of hard work. However, it got me thinking. What will happen when THON reaches a “steady state” for the amount of money it raises every year? I don’t think this will happen soon, as there is still plenty of room for THON to grow within PSU. But, what happens when (if?) THON reaches a point of zero growth?

One possibility of course is that nothing will change, that everyone involved will be content with raising millions of dollars every year, as that is still an absurd amount of money to conjure for the Four Diamonds Fund. However, I don’t think that this will happen. Like it or not, part of what drives THON is competition, between organizations and as a whole against the total of the previous year. I think that drive will push THON further and further. But how can this happen, if growth at PSU has been maximized?

One way is more involvement by corporations and the media. At this point, nearly everyone knows about Khloe Kardashian’s  support(?) for THON through her twitter account. As much as I wish Khloe had gotten off the bench and into the game, it is that type of exposure that will help THON grow. Imagine greater celebrity and news attention – imagine a televised THON! Corporate sponsors would become an even greater part of the yearly total.

And yet, that brings up some issues. With attention like that, it will be much easier to forget what THON is all about… it’s FTK, not FTCamera or FTAutographs. More than a few eyebrows were raised when the DELL commercial aired during the final four hours. Are more of those odd juxtapositions worth the extra money that will be brought in?

Another idea that I have heard is of THON spreading out of PSU into other schools, most likely starting in the Big 10. Think about simultaneous THONs occurring at Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern, etc. It certainly fits in with the sense of THON-competition: “Which school will raise the most FTK?” The opportunity to involve oneself in something as great as THON would have appeal across the country.

Yet this idea is not without issues either. Other schools would definitely get behind the cause of curing pediatric cancer, but they would also want to see families in their local area receiving care. What would this mean for the Four Diamonds Fund? Could it expand beyond the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital? Would this expansion cause a loss of focus on current THON families? Also, THON is obviously a major part of PSU pride; it is the world’s largest student-run philanthropy and it is at PSU. Would we be willing to swallow our pride and let our baby grow up if it meant that more children could be cared for nation-wide?

I obviously don’t have the answers to these questions, but they really get the cogs turning. One thing is for sure: THON is a big deal, and it is sticking around. What do you think about all this? What’s in store for THON in the future?


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