Stacy Bingler Forbes: The Picture of THON Involvement
When it comes to THON involvement, it’s difficult to beat Stacy Bingler Forbes. She’s been involved in THON for more of her life than not: 24 years total, so far.
Stacy was an active member of Kappa Alpha Theta and on the Morale Committee her freshman year at Penn State, and worked as a Hospitality Captain her sophomore year. As a junior, she became the Hospitality Director, and had the honor of being selected as the Overall Chairperson her senior year in 1995. (Did I mention she was the first woman to have that post? She doesn’t make a big deal about it, though.)
After graduating from Penn State, Stacy has continued her involvement in THON. She’s run in the Hope Express (three times), has served on the Four Diamonds Advisory Board, and has danced as an alumna (twice). Stacy danced in 2000 in Rec Hall as an alumni dancer for the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG). At age 27, it was her first time dancing. She just ran out of time to do everything as a student, she said.
When she danced her second time in 2013, this time in the BJC, it was part of a celebration for her 40th birthday and the 40th anniversary of THON. She said her second time was actually easier than dancing at 27. She’s had three kids and run multiple Iron Man competitions – “all I have to do is stand here?!” she thought to herself. People have asked her if she’ll dance a third time, but she doesn’t think that’s going to happen. “People looked at us like we were crazy [dancing at 40], because I must have looked ancient,” she said, saying she doesn’t think she’ll be dancing at age 60.
Coming back to THON 20 years after running the show is a fun experience, Stacy said. It’s much easier to come back THON Weekend and just “look at it and appreciate it” as you get further removed. Closer to her time as Overall Chairperson, she would have worried about her ideas and suggestions for THON, but now it’s easier to relax and just enjoy the weekend. “You can just appreciate it for what it is,” she said, “it’s just about raising money for Four Diamonds at that point.”
Of course, THON Weekend changes a lot year to year, but she said the changes would seem more drastic if she wasn’t experiencing them as they happen. She ran THON when it was in the White Building in 1995, danced in both Rec Hall and the BJC, and continues to visit Happy Valley during THON Weekend just about every year.
THON is really the same, she said, it’s just bigger. Things function in pretty much the same way. Of course there are more committees, more volunteers, and more spectators every year, but Stacy said she understands how THON blew up so much. “It’s gotta change to grow” she said. THON’s “definitely got more of a corporate feel to it now,” she said, as opposed to the grassroots feel from her time as a student.
What keeps a person involved in THON for 24 years? “It’s really the personal connections,” she told me. It’s the fact that you get to know a family and hear about their struggles and start to understand their family’s experience. She’s had full-circle moments of her relationships with THON children who have now grown up to be survivors and have families of their own. She told me specifically about her organization’s THON child from when she was a student: she now has a baby, and wanted to know if Stacy could make a stop in Harrisburg on her trip out east to meet the newborn, since she currently lives in Colorado.
As for the future of THON? Stacy thinks it will keep growing. “They’re in a really hard spot right now with capacity and some of the issues they’ve had to deal with in the past few years,” Stacy said. But these issues are things that THON has to deal with to keep the event safe and to help it continue to grow, she explained. There have been discussions of having two simultaneous THONs going on at once, or putting a roof on Beaver Stadium to give THON a space to move into, because THON only continues to grow. “I don’t know if the physical event itself can continue to grow in this building,” Stacy said, “but the funds raised and the awareness are going to continue to grow.”
For Stacy, it’s also about the people THON surrounds you with: dancers, committees, everyone is in love with THON, she said, and everyone moves forward together with that as a common thread.
“I just truly appreciate it, you know? You give a lot for THON and the Four Diamonds, but it gives you so much more back. And my life is changed for that.”