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A Comprehensive Guide to THON Special Interest Orgs

THON Special Interest Organizations have been a staple of the largest student run philanthropy for years. A Special Interest organization is defined as “those organizations that exist for the sole purpose of fundraising for THON and/or have the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon in their organization mission statement.”

Special Interest orgs contribute a huge number to THON’s total, and as Communications Director Kelly Tompeck said, “Special interest organizations are unique because they have no restrictions on when students can join the organization. This means that at any time of the year, members of the Penn State community are able to get involved with THON and the fight against pediatric cancer.”
There has been a huge growth in the number of these organizations over the past few years, and it can be a bit confusing to tell each organization apart or to decide which org is right for you. We contacted each of the orgs to put together a comprehensive* list of the qualities for each group.

*Please note that all answers were recorded directly from leaders in the organizations. Not all organizations were able to fill out surveys, but you can find a complete list of THON orgs here. If your special interest org is not included but would like to be, please email me.

**Orgs are presented in the order responses were received.

Your comprehensive guide to THON Special Interest organizations:

Org Name: AYUDA

Year founded: 2012

# of members: 40-50

# of adopted THON families: 1

# of dancers in 2013: 2

THON 2013 Total: $32,417

Total since inception: $33,000

Colors/mascots: Red and Yellow

Story behind its name: AYUDA means “help” in Spanish. Although we are not a hispanic org, the word to us meant so much because we all want to do all we can to help the cause and help the fight against pediatric cancer.

The org in one sentence: We are a close-knit, small, family, dedicated to raising money and providing emotional support for the fight against pediatric cancer.

Fun Fact: In our first year we were awarded dancers, a family, and placed in the top 12 Special Interest Orgs.

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: We would be a stegosaurus?

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Atlas

Year founded: 2005

# of members: 250-300

# of adopted THON families: 3

# of dancers in 2013: 10

THON 2013 Total: $560,097.48

Total since inception: Over $2,000,000

Colors/mascots: Our colors are hunter green, orange, and pink. Hunter green was the color of the Atlas floor in Atherton Hall, where we were founded. The orange comes from the color of the ribbon for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (A.L.L.), the cancer that all three of our girls had. Our signature pink hats come from when our THON child Victoria Smith was undergoing treatment for A.L.L. and was unable to attend her first THON. As her family streamed the event on their computer from the medical center, they found it rather difficult to pick out which students were representing Atlas. Victoria at the time had a blue fuzzy hat that she liked to wear on her head as she was going through her chemotherapy treatment. She liked the fuzzy feeling that the hat provided as she lost her hair from consecutive chemotherapy rounds. Stephanie, Victoria’s mother, suggested that Atlas order the hats in Victoria’s favorite color, which is pink, so that members could stand out in the crowd. The rest, of course, is history. Since then the pink fuzzy hats have become a symbol of our dedication to THON and our Four Diamonds families.

Story behind its name: Atlas was founded out of the ground floor of Atherton Hall, which was known as the Atlas floor.

The org in one sentence: For the Smiths, For the Brobsons, For the Gerenas. For the Kids!

Fun Fact: We have a Harlem Shake video that has over 1,000,000 views on YouTube!

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: As we are the largest special interest org, we would be the argentinosaurus. Weighing over 100 tons and measuring 200 ft, it is the largest dinosaur ever discovered to be backed by convincing evidence.

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Pillar

Year founded: 2008

# of members: 100-150

# of adopted THON families: 1

# of dancers in 2013: 8

THON 2013 Total: $109,000

Total since inception: $362,000

Colors/mascots: Pillar’s colors are purple and yellow! We also have a pillar/column that we use on some of our merch.

Story behind its name: The name Pillar was decided when the founding members, freshman of Tener Hall, were told they needed a real name for their organization. Before, it had just been “Amanda and Friends” so they needed something more legit! When they thought about it, they liked the idea of a Pillar symbolizing strength. Pillars are there to hold buildings, structures or really anything up. They decided having a name like Pillar would show that we are just one organization that is holding up THON and the Four Diamonds Families. Once they chose it, it was a perfect fit!

The org in one sentence:  Pillar is a fun, loving, passionate organization who welcomes everyone with open arms and truly strives to give all members the best THON experience they can possibly have.

Fun Fact: Pillar was started by a group of freshman best friends who basically had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They held meetings by the elevator in their dorm! Through the years, Pillar has grown and flourished but we are always centered around friendship, exactly how it was started.

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: When I asked the org what they thought, a few people said Triceratops. One alumnus, Carlton, said, “Because while it might not be the biggest or the baddest it’s still a pretty darn cool dinosaur. They also had a close family amongst themselves, and could scare off predators if need be. Which is awesome. I think that sums up the spirit of Pillar. Pillar is awesome. Pillar the Triceratops.” So that’s what we’d be!  

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: HEAL

Year founded: 2010

# of members: 60

# of adopted THON families: 1

# of dancers in 2013: 4

THON 2013 Total: $60,000

Total since inception: $163,630

Colors/mascots: Our colors are blue, green, and yellow. We don’t have a specific mascot.

Story behind its name: After THON 2010 the founding fathers of our organization were so inspired by THON that they wanted to started their own organization. Paul DiNubila came up with name Help Every Angel Live and was shortened to HEAL this year.

The org in one sentence:  We are a group of 60 friends who have an amazing bond with our inspiring THON child Bekah and the rest of her family, the Tuckeys.

Fun Fact: We got a THON family the first year of being an organization.

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: Pterodactyl, because we spread our wings and fly!

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Tri-STATE

Year founded: 2008

# of members: 30-40

# of adopted THON families: 1

# of dancers in 2013: 4

THON 2013 Total: $51,166.17

Total since inception: over $300,000

Colors/mascots: Colors: red, white, and blue, Mascot: a bunch of kids holding hands with Tri-STATE spelled on their shirts

Story behind its name: 8 friends came together to make a difference; 4 from Pennsylvania, 2 from New Jersey, and 2 from New York. They made many more friends and formed what we all now know as Tri-STATE.

The org in one sentence: A bunch of best friends raising money for a great cause we all believe in.

Fun Fact: We raise about $1500 per active member!

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: Dino birds. They are a species that is a mix of birds and dinosaurs with differing features. Our members all bring something different to make a great team!

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Axis

Year founded: 2011

# of members: 40-50

# of adopted THON families: 1

# of dancers in 2013: 2

THON 2013 Total: $16,521.52

Total since inception: $23,165.78

Colors/mascots: Our colors are lime green and turquoise.

Story behind its name: The name Axis was created in conjunction with our slogan, “setting the standard.” An axis is a standard, or something by which everything else is measured by.

The org in one sentence: We may be small, but we’re one big family!

Fun Fact: Over the summer, we had our own version of the Flat Stanley Project. The Flat Stanley Project is an international activity in which elementary school students send paper “Flat Stanleys” to other students around the world. Each student takes a picture with Flat Stanley, writes a story about what they did that day and then sends it back. Our project, named “Flat Ayrton” after our THON child, consisted of each member getting a paper “Flat Ayrton” and taking pictures with him throughout the summer. In just a few months “Flat Ayrton” traveled all around the world, from State College to Cancun, Mexico to Fiji!

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: Pachycephalosaurus, because that’s our THON child Ayrton’s favorite dinosaur!

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Pyramid

Year founded: 2004

# of members: 20-25

# of adopted THON families: 1

# of dancers in 2013: 2

THON 2013 Total: $11,500

Total since inception: $65,000

Colors/mascots: n/a

Story behind their name: n/a

The org in one sentence: While we love to raise money for a great cause, its a beautiful thing to spend time with our sponsor family.

Fun Fact: n/a

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: The Raptorex because it was a small but competitive dinosaur that preluded the infamous T-Rex.

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: FOTO

Year founded: 2009

# of members: 100-160

# of adopted THON families: 2

# of dancers in 2013: 6

THON 2013 Total: $94,317

Total since inception: around $315,000

Colors/mascots: We refer to ourselves as the “FOTO Family” and our colors are Black and Bright Blue. We also have our FOTO BEAR!!!!

Story behind its name: Our founder, Adam Fotoaines brother Tommy was diagnosed with pediatric cancer. The name FO (Fotoaine) and TO (Tommy) is a play off the names.

The org in one sentence: Small enough to know each other, yet large enough to make an impact.

Fun Fact: It was founded by two best friends while they were at THON. They were sitting there kidding around and the next year we placed in the top of the special interest organizations.

In Onward State Tradition, if their org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: Reptar cause we love the kids.

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]



Year founded: 2011

# of members: 60

# of adopted THON families: 1

# of dancers in 2013: 2

THON 2013 Total: $21,000

Total since inception: around $35,000

Colors/mascots: Purple and green.

Story behind its name: n/a

The org in one sentence: We love to have fun and participate in THON and other philanthropic events, always going to Infinity and beTHON!!

Fun Fact: Our THON child Imori is obsessed with dinosaurs!!

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: The Imori-saur. One of the dinosaurs our THON child, Imori, drew with purple and green polka dots of course!

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Hershey Kisses For The Kids

Year founded: 2010

# of members: 20

# of adopted THON families: 1

# of dancers in 2013: 2

THON 2013 Total: $32,000

Total since inception: $70,000

Colors/mascots: One of our organization’s color is green because it is our THON child, Ellen’s, favorite color. Also, because we are the Hershey Kisses For The Kids, we usually have a similar logo to a Hershey Kiss.

Story behind its name: Our organization’s founder and the majority of its members originate from the Hershey area and live within only a few miles of the Penn State Hershey Medical Center as well as the chocolate factory, so Hershey Kisses For The Kids seemed like an appropriate name.

The org in one sentence: Our organization’s motto is “For Ellen Forever”.

Fun Fact: Every year we get shirts with a picture designed by our THON child, Ellen.

In Onward State Tradition, if their org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: Nanotryannus, a juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex, because we are small but still strong and mighty.

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Everyday

Year founded: 2008

# of members: 40-60

# of adopted THON families: 1

# of dancers in 2013: 2

THON 2013 Total: $27,534.15

Total since inception: $13,0000

Colors/mascots: Our THON child passed away at the age of only 4 months, and his name was Teddy, so we try to put a teddy bear somewhere on all of our gear, so I guess that would be our mascot. Our colors are blue and yellow.

Story behind its name: My roommate and I were trying to figure out a new name for our org, and we were picking out random things in his room that could be our name. The song “Everyday” by Dave Matthews Band came on and in a version of the song they sing, “Honey, Honey, come and dance with me.” We thought it was perfect, brought it to a vote, and the name stuck.

The org in one sentence: We’re a small tight knit group of good friends working together to make lives easier.

Fun Fact: Our group was originally named Lion Thon, and were founded by students who worked at the radio station The Lion in the HUB.

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: Deinonychus, because they hunted in packs, and worked together to achieve their goal.

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected] 


Org Name: Ohana

Year founded: 2008

# of members: 250-300

# of adopted THON families: 3

# of dancers in 2013: 10

THON 2013 Total: $239,514.59

Total since inception: $904,232.55

Colors/mascots: Colors: Orange and Blue Mascots: Fish Hats, Shark Costume, Sumo Suit

Story behind its name: Our organization name originated from the Lilo and Stitch quote, “Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind”

The org in one sentence: We are a silly, happy, dedicated, open-minded, and most importantly, truly welcoming organization looking to make a difference in the lives of everyone involved in Ohana and THON.

Fun Fact: We break our organization up into 10 ‘families’ so that it is easier for our members to meet other people within the organization.

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: Plesiosaurs, because they fit the aquatic theme of our organization.

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Springfield

Year founded: 2001

# of members: 130

# of adopted THON families: 2

# of dancers in 2013: 8

THON 2013 Total: $170,886.16

Total since inception: $1,209,818.17

Colors/mascots: Blue and Red! Our logo is a hand heart which symbolizes our focus on emotionally supporting our THON families. We have two unofficial mascots: Spartans, because we are a tight-knit group of people who are passionate about fighting pediatric cancer. Dolphins, because dolphins are cool.

Story behind its name: Springfield is Penn State’s Oldest Special Interest Org. Springfield began on the ground floor of the residence hall Simmons with the repainting of an all pink hall to feature many characters from the popular cartoon The Simpsons. While this seems an unlikely story of origins, the camaraderie built between friends Matt Thomas, Pat Seymour, and Bob Fay during that undertaking became the base upon which our organization was founded. That year Springfield raised around $6,500 in our first THON, THON 2001. 

The org in one sentence:  “A Springfielder’s greatest strength is the Springfielder next to him”

Fun Fact: On the Thursday night before THON weekend, Springfield holds our traditional head shaving. Springfield guys all get their heads shaved to show solidarity. No hair, don’t care.

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: The protagonist of the best movie series ever: Little Foot from Land Before Time.

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Tetra

Year founded: 2013

# of members: 40-50

THON 2013 total: n/a

Total since inception: n/a

Colors/mascots: Our organization likes to go with the color scheme of our logo which is made up of bright Neon colors. If not that, our brightly colored sunglasses with Tetra written on the lenses might give us away!

Story behind its name: Tetra came about from sitting around thinking about what is said and heard about THON. It’s a prefix that refers to the number four, which along with for, is heard a lot throughout the year- For the Kids, For the Cure, and of course the Four Diamonds Fund. We just went with what was around us on a daily basis!

The org in one sentence: We love meeting people and making a difference!

Fun Fact: Tetra is brand new! We have only been a special interest organization for THON since March, so THON 2014 will be our first together!

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: Reptar… that counts right?

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Apollo

Year founded: 2011

# of members: 100-150

THON 2013 total: $122,264.76

Total since inception: $160,061.33

Colors/mascots: Blue and yellow/ anything to do with outer space.

Story behind its name: The original founders were trying to come up with a name when they found out that Apollo was the Greek God of healing and music, and what could be more perfect for a Dance Marathon that raises money for pediatric cancer than that!

The org in one sentence: NGU (which stands for Never Give Up!)

Fun Fact: We are the fastest growing Special Interest org so far at Penn State!

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: Achillobator because it got its name from a Greek God and it has quirky physical characteristics that distinguishes it from other Raptors, making it a whole new species of dinosaur.

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: A-7

Year Founded: 2005

# of members: 50

#of adopted families: 2

# of dancers in 2013: 4

THON 2013 total: $36,449.46

Total since inception: $201,909.58

Colors/mascots: Light blue and yellow

Story behind its name: The founding members lived on a floor in Atherton Hall, A-7, and when they went to start a THON Organization, that’s the name that was decided. We love it!

The org in once sentence: A-7 is a small family that’s fundraising big, FTK.

Fun fact: We have an evil laser printer.

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why?: Pterodactyl. Not only because we work to make sure the kids and families of the Four Diamonds Fund can soar, but we also love to help a great cause and have fun at the same time. We dare you to look at a picture of pterodactyls and tell us that they don’t look like they’d be smiling and cracking jokes everywhere.

Contact info for recruitment: [email protected]


Org Name: Monarch

Year founded: 2013

# of members: 60+

# of adopted THON families: n/a

# of dancers in 2013: n/a

THON 2013 Total: n/a

Total since inception: n/a

Colors/mascots: Red, White, and Blue

Story behind its name: Two of our executives have an immense interest in the United Kingdom and Queen Elizabeth. When thinking of a name for our Org we wanted a cool sounding word with 3 or fewer syllables. Monarch fit our needs and their interests, so we decided to go with it.

The org in one sentence: We’re learning every day to allow the space between where we are and where we want to be inspire us and not terrify us.

Fun Fact: We were recognized as a Special Interest THON Org on September 16, 2013. THON 2014 will be Monarch’s first as an Org!

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why: We would be Yoshi because everyone wants to play as Yoshi in any N64 game.

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]com


Org Name: Futures

Year founded: 2005

# of members: 60-80

# of adopted THON families: 2

# of dancers in 2013: 2

THON 2013 Total: $21,988.05

Total since inception: $67,657.43

Colors/mascots: None… yet :)

Story behind its name: The organization started out as a Residential Life special interest organization (only for RAs on campus). This changed in 2012 when non-RES life members joined. The original name of this organization was FutuRES, but in 2013 the organization decided to lowercase the RES to show our change away from only residential life. Even through this change, the name Futures has always truly exemplified why we do what we do; For the Kids, For their Futures!!

The org in one sentence: Through courage, honesty, wisdom, and strength we, as a team, achieve greatness (with plenty of fun along the way)!

Fun Fact: We commonly hold selfie-taking contests throughout the year. So far a group of our members are winning with a selfie taken with Bill O’Brien at Nittanyville!

If your org was a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would it be and why:Reptar because the Rugrats is inspirational! Reptar is always the thing Tommy goes to when he needs help: kinda like a sidekick. That is what we are to our families, the Bonner’s and the Espinoza’s. Staying strong for our heroes!

Contact information for recruitment: [email protected]

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About the Author

Mara Kern

Mara is a senior majoring in public relations with a minor in business. She is from Cranberry Twp., PA and enjoys blogging, cats, tweeting, and not wanting to graduate.


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