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Freshman 101: How To Survive Your First THON

THON is an awesome event, experienced by thousands of Penn State students, that helps to inspire countless families and to raise millions of dollars for the Four Diamonds Fund. But if you’re a freshman, or someone making your first trip to the Bryce Jordan Center, it can be intimidating if you don’t know what to expect.

Here are ten tips to make your THON experience the best it can be.

1. Don’t sit down

This one seems like common sense, but if you’ve never been to THON, you might not realize it at first. Everyone knows that all of the dancers stay standing for 46 hours, but so does every other person in the BJC. Whether you’re in the stands, in the concourse, or behind the scenes, you have to be standing if you’re inside the building. There are a few sacred spots that you may be able to get off your feet for a few minutes, but most of the time, you’ll be up and moving around. On that note…

2. Make sure you have extra clothes and shoes

Since you’ll be on your feet dancing, moving around, and having fun, you’ll inevitably start to sweat and feel gross. Even doing something simple like changing your socks can make a huge difference and make you feel ten times better. Plus, you don’t want to be that guy who can be smelled from two sections over because you haven’t changed your clothes in 36 hours. Bring an extra pair of shoes, multiple pairs of socks and underwear, and a few extra shirts and pairs of shorts or pants.

3. Get there on time

During the wee hours of the morning, you shouldn’t have trouble getting into the BJC. But during the peak hours (the start of THON/learning the line dance, the Pep Rally, and the Final Four hours), you won’t be the only one who is trying to get into the BJC. Last year, THON had a system implemented which allowed students to wait in line inside of the Pegula Ice Arena across the street — but this year, Pegula won’t be opening until 8 a.m. on Sunday morning. If you want to get in for the Pep Rally, be there a few hours in advance. Last year, the official THON account tweeted that the doors were closed for the final four hours at 12:17 p.m. on Sunday, but people had been waiting in line for hours before that. Be there between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. at least to have a good shot at making it inside the doors before they close.

4. Be prepared for the cold

It’s February in State College, and as the past week has shown, it’s gonna be cold. The White Loop and the Blue Loop run overnight for all 46 hours of THON, but the buses get crowded at peak times, so be prepared to have to walk. It’s fine to wear shorts and a tank top inside the BJC, but dress warmly and get ready to be outside for the long walk to the BJC or back home.

5. Embrace the crazy

THON is a time where your inner child comes out. If you want to wear a crazy hat, do it. If you want to dress like a superhero, do it. If you want to throw a ball around, blow bubbles, or dance like no one is watching, then do it. Have fun and enjoy your time with your friends and the Four Diamonds families. No one is judging what you do, because they’re probably doing the same thing.

6. Bring the right things

Things you SHOULD NOT bring to THON:

  • Alcohol. Simple enough. This event is FTK, so don’t bring alcohol or show up drunk. Plus, it’ll make being in the stands that much harder to handle.
  • Drugs. See above.
  • Backpacks. THON has to abide by the BJC’s bag rule, which means you can’t bring in anything bigger than a drawstring bag.
  • Food and drinks. (I have to say this, but see the section below.)
  • Open containers at night. While a 3 a.m. Shamrock Shake is always delicious, you aren’t allowed to bring any liquid in an open container from 11 p.m. through 4 a.m., even if it’s for a dancer. R&R will make you throw it away at the door. And there’s no bigger crime in the world than throwing away a Shamrock Shake.

Things you SHOULD bring to THON:

  • Baby powder.
  • A tennis ball, or something similar, for you to rub your feet on when they start to hurt.
  • Safe things to keep you occupied, like a ball, puzzle book, or even your iPad.
  • Extra clothes (see No. 2).
  • Okay, so about the food and drinks: Sneak in snacks and drinks if you can. The BJC technically says that you aren’t allowed to bring in food since the concession stands will be open, but they will drain your bank account/meal points fast if you aren’t careful.
  • A portable phone charger. This year, spectators aren’t allowed to use the outlets in the concourse and bathrooms, so make sure you have a mobile charging device or something like that to keep your phone battery at 100 percent.
  • Basically, everything on this list.

7. Be nice to R&R committee members

Let’s be honest, the Rules and Regulations committee doesn’t have the best reputation. Most people think that R&R is just there to ruin people’s fun, but in reality, THON wouldn’t function without the committee members. Remember: They’re students just like you, they’re volunteering their time to keep everything safe, and they’re just doing their jobs. For the most part, if you’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to you.

8. Learn the line dance

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Learn the line dance. It will be performed 46 times, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn it. It is specially designed every year to help you stretch your muscles, and if you do it right, you’ll feel better as the weekend goes on. Plus, you don’t want to be one of those people that’s pointing to the left when everyone else is pointing to the right.

9. Know how to interact with dancers

If you’re lucky enough to know a dancer, know how to talk to them. Most dancers don’t want to hear about what time it is, how bad your feet hurt, or how tired you are. Their task is much greater than yours. Be conscientious, cover your phone so they can’t see the time, and be cheery! The dancers need your support throughout the weekend, so make sure you stay positive and don’t say something stupid.

10. Remember what it’s all about

It’s okay to have fun, goof around, and hang out with your friends at THON, but remember why everyone is there. It’s not about the dancers or students, it’s about supporting the Four Diamonds children and their families. The fight against cancer is one that most families don’t want to fight on their own, and they look to this weekend for support, for a getaway, and for love. We’re here For The Kids and For The Fight. Don’t forget that.

Have other tips for people attending THON for their first time? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Alex Robinson

Alex Robinson was Onward State's Acting Managing Editor/Resident Old Man. He lived in Harrisburg almost his whole life, but he says he's from California -- where he was born -- because that's more fun. He loves cats and Chinese food, but only separately. He met both Ben Affleck and Kanye West within a half hour, so the three of them are basically best friends. If you want to hear his #scorching #hot #takes, you can follow him at @ARobinsonPSU or email him at [email protected]

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