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Freshman 101: A Beginner’s Guide To THON With 46 Tips For 46 Hours

The best weekend of the year is right around the corner. And if you’re a freshman, the flurry that is pre-THON week is overwhelming. With less than 72 hours until we dance, here’s our beginner’s guide to THON so you don’t make it obvious this is your first time in a tutu FTK.

46 tips to last you 46 hours

  1. Don’t sit down. This should go without saying but I figured it’s a good place to start.
  2. Don’t go out on Thursday. If you take nothing else away from this list, at least remember this. You’ll thank yourself later.
  3. Do your homework for Monday early. Since you’ll have extra time when you’re not drinking on Thursday night, you’ll have plenty of time to get a head start on your homework for next week. If you get your work done you’ll feel less guilty for inevitably skipping on Monday.
  4. Not sure what to expect? Relive THON 2015 with our live blog.bjc thon 2015
  5. Wear deodorant and more importantly, bring deodorantAgain, self-explanatory but don’t forget to throw your deodorant in your bag after you lather up. That being said, forget the perfume or cologne.
  6. Speaking of bags, leave your backpack at home. THON’s rules, not ours. You can bring a drawstring bag or a fanny pack but you can’t bring a backpack into the BJC.
  7. Put odor eaters in your shoes. Trust us on this one.
  8. Pack accordingly. Stay tuned for a follow-up of what to bring and what not to bring later this week.
  9. The buses run 24 hours. If you got stuck with the dreaded 4 a.m. shift, have no fear. The White and Blue loop run all 46 hours during THON.
  10. Be prepared to wait. You’ll have to wait to get into the BJC, to get on the floor, to move around the concourse, to get food, and even to go to the bathroom. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. thon line
  11. Energy drinks are not your friends. If you don’t normally drink caffeine, THON weekend is not the time to test the waters.
  12. Stay hydrated. Water should be your drink of choice. Things like Gatorade or Powerade have almost your daily serving of sugar in one bottle. The last thing you want is a sugar crash. To avoid that and add some flavor, stash some Crystal Light packets in your bag.
  13. Eat healthy. The BJC will be stocked with everything from grilled cheese to soft pretzels. Take the higher road and make sure you’re pairing your carbs with protein so you can sustain your energy.
  14. Bring a portable charger. Outlets are few and far between.
  15. Don’t imbibe before THON. Since you’re not going out Thursday night (see No. 2) don’t be tempted to rip a few shots or smoke a joint with your friends before trekking over to the BJC. Even the Greeks stay sober for 46 hours FTK.
  16. Stay off your phone. Not only will it die, but you’ll miss 46 hours happening right in front of you because you’re too busy duck facing on Snapchat.
  17. Stretch. This is essential to staying on your feet. Google some stretches if you’ve forgotten how to loosen up since your glory days as a high school athlete.
  18. Learn the line dance. The Dancer Relations captains will take the stage to perform it once an hour all weekend.Bobby Chen
  19. Rainbow attire is encouraged. There’s no such thing as dressing too crazy for THON. Anything goes. Knee-high tie dye socks, multicolored tutus, and banana costumes are the norm.
  20. Dress according to the weather. If the weather forecast doesn’t change, leave your parkas at home.
  21. Buy your THON gear and help the total. This is a win-win. Merchants downtown are donating a percentage of sales to THON leading up to the big weekend.
  22. Make friends. Unlike sitting in class, everyone at THON is there for the same cause and because they want to be there. This is the only time we’ll condone talking to strangers.
  23. Lose your voice. If you’re not screaming you’re doing it wrong.
  24. Get excited. If you need a pump up this week, listen to every song played at THON last year.
  25. Mind your manners. When people get tired a bout of crankiness is usually not far behind. Check yourself and remember there’s nothing worth bickering about, especially at THON.
  26. Bust a move. There will be music 24/7, whether it’s the playlist from the Entertainment committee or a live band performing. Just be prepared to dance often. thon stock
  27. If R&R says jump, you jump. They’re the folks in red and they’re everywhere.
  28. Follow the rules. While they’re annoying, THON has so many rules for a reason. After all, this year’s rule book is 77 pages. Don’t cut in line to get a floor pass or try to sneak in through a different entrance. You will be caught and you’ll have to do it the right way eventually.
  29. Moraler and Dancer Relations are not interchangeable. Prepare for the evil eye if you make this mistake.
  30. Refresh yourself on the rules. You might break a rule without even realizing it’s a rule. THON made some logistical updates last month that are worth a read-through before you get to the BJC.
  31. Be mindful of what you say. Don’t complain about a committee member or make fun of an org’s t-shirts. You never know who’s around when you’re on the concourse.
  32. Show your friends at home you’re FTK. You can add a Four Diamond your profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook. And if your friends at home have a dance marathon, don’t roll your eyes because “ours is better.” It all goes to the same cause!
  33. Encourage everyone you know to donate. It’s not too late to contribute to this year’s total. Donate here.
  34. Prepare yourself for a lower total. If you’re a freshman you’re in a particularly unique situation this year. You only saw one canning weekend, which means you’ll likely see a significantly lower total for the first time in recent memory. Say it with me now: “That is okay!” THON total reveal 2015
  35. It’s not all about the money. While the financial backing in search of a cure and to the Four Diamonds is what makes THON what it is, remember the dollar amount isn’t everything. It’s also about the bonds orgs create with their families, the dozens of cards these kids get on a random day just because, and the memories they’ll carry with them forever.
  36. Don’t go if you’re sick. This is important. Putting kids going through chemo in a building with thousands of people is dangerous to their health because their immune systems are compromised. If you’re even slightly sick, stay home. You’ll miss out but it’s worth it if you can prevent long-term damage to these kids’ treatment.
  37. Try to get back on your normal sleep schedule. If your last shift is at noon on Sunday, don’t sleep for 18 hours after that. Try your best to go to bed at your normal time so your sleep cycle can return to normal sooner rather than later.
  38. Don’t bother emailing your professor. If you skip on Monday, they know why.
  39. Get involved. If you attend your first THON as a spectator and love it, get involved. There are too many orgs and committees to list and it’s never too late in your Penn State career to get involved.
  40. THON isn’t for everyone. On the flip side, more than half the students at Penn State participate in THON for a number of reasons. If you realize it’s not for you that’s okay, you’re not alone.
  41. Do not complain. About how you’re tired, how your feet hurt, how you want a shower, or even how you miss your dog. If you feel compelled to complain remind yourself you’re in the company of dozens of families with a child battling cancer. If you still feel the need to complain, see yourself out at Gate A.
  42. You will cry. And it’s okay. Everyone from athletes to frat brothers will shed a few tears during THON. It’s an incredibly moving weekend and you should embrace it.
  43. THON is not about you. This weekend is not a celebration of how hard you worked fundraising, rather a celebration for the kids, for their families, and for a cure.
  44. Have fun. Goes without saying.
  45. Follow @THONwardState. Shameless plug, but we’ve got you covered with all THON related content and updates throughout the weekend.
  46. Learn the lingo. We’ve got you covered below.

From the Onward State archives, here are the key THON terms you need to know:

FTK — I know, it seems basic, but there has been a time in everyone’s life where these three little letters didn’t mean anything.  FTK is THON’s most famous slogan and stands for “For The Kids.” You will hear FTK chants, see FTK shirts, and I’m sure you can spot these three letters in a number of other places, but hopefully after going to THON, you’ll understand that FTK feeling a little better, too.

Believe Beyond Boundaries  — This is the theme for THON 2016. Each year a new theme is chosen and is incorporated throughout the entire weekend. The theme is what ties THON Weekend together. There is also always a logo designed for each theme, so you will spot that on the giant banner behind the stage.

Four Diamonds/Four Diamonds Fund — The Four Diamonds Fund is the fund to which the money raised from THON is donated. The fund was created 41 years ago when a boy named Christopher Millard wrote a story about a knight who had to collect four diamonds (courage, honesty, wisdom and strength) in order to defeat an evil sorceress. The story is a metaphor for Chris’s battle with pediatric cancer, and the fund was created in his honor.

Dancer — This year 708 dancers will stand for 46 hours. Though the whole Dance Marathon is considered a no-sleeping, no-sitting Dance Marathon, these dancers are the ones who have made the commitment and been selected for their efforts.

Dancer Relations — Each dancer is paired with a Dancer Relations committee member for the weekend to support them (physically AND emotionally) in the 46 hour journey they go through THON weekend. Their committee wears yellow, and they are generally seen wearing really ridiculous things.

R&R — Short for Rules and Regulations, these are the people who are responsible for maintaining the safety of THON at all times and are always wearing red. Sometimes they have to enforce rules that may seem stupid, but just do everyone a favor and listen to them. Save the sass for someone else!

Line Dance — The Line Dance is a yearly tradition created by the Dancer Relations Captains. It features pop culture references as well as things that have happened around Penn State this year. The purpose of the Line Dance is to stretch out the dancers, so it is performed approximately once every hour. You know the Line Dance is coming when you hear the infamous line “DANCER RELATIONS CAPTAINS, TO THE STAGE!”

Executives — The Executive Committee is comprised of 15 people, one Executive Director and 14 committee Executives. They are responsible for maintaining every aspect of THON, from fundraising, to rules, to merchandise. If you think about this as a family tree, the Executive Director is the Great Grandparent, and the Executives are the Grandparents.

Captains — This is the “ranking” below overall. Captains serve under each overall for the 14 various committees, and the captains of most of the different THON committees (like Morale and R&R, as we mentioned) are in charge of their own committee. Continuing with the family tree reference, Captains would be the Parents!

Committee members — Those who serve under Captains. Still going with the family tree reference, these are the Children.

Orgs — Any organization that fundraises for THON is considered an “org.” There are different types of orgs, but we wont get into all of that. These are the people filling the stands all wearing matching shirts and sometimes crazy hats (looking at you, Atlas). They would be the hundreds of Cousins on the family tree.

Floor — This is a term used to describe the “dance floor” or “event floor.” Basically this is where the dancers stand for 46 hours. In order to have access to the floor, you must be a dancer, Captain, or committee member, or be on a Pass List. This brings me to my next point:

Pass System — The pass system is the way THON is able to control how many people have access to the floor at one time. In order to get a pass, you have to be on a list before THON. Orgs are only allotted so many passes at one time, so if an org has a pass available you will have to wait in a line to receive that pass and get access to the floor.


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

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