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Final Canning Weekend Marks The End Of An Era For THON

Thousands of Penn Staters will flood out of Happy Valley Friday afternoon to spend the entire weekend fundraising for the world’s largest student-run philanthropy.

Though the exact origins of canning for THON aren’t readily available, THON’s canning weekends have for decades served as de facto retreats for THON volunteers to bond in their shared pursuit of a cure for pediatric cancer. But no more.

THON made an effort over the years to make canning safer. Organizations could no longer can at intersections, but instead were required to stand outside storefronts to solicit donors. Canning weekends were limited to the fall semester after then-freshman Courtney O’Bryan died in a car accident returning from a canning trip in 2011.

Despite heightened safety measures, the organization announced in April 2016 it would phase out canning by THON 2019 following the death of Alpha Chi Omega sister Tally Sepot in an accident returning from a fall 2015 canning trip.

At that point, we called eliminating canning a misguided mistake. But alas, here we are, on the eve of THON’s final canning weekend. It feels bittersweet.

Canning weekends aren’t just about raising money — they’re about making memories.

They’re about the four-hour roadtrips you take to sleep on the floor of your friend’s basement and spend half the weekend trying to explain what THON is to their parents.

They’re about waking up earlier than you do for your 8 a.m. chem lab to stand outside your hometown market for hours asking people you haven’t seen since high school to donate.

They’re about wearing tutus and the brightest outfit you own, just to make someone smile enough that they decide to drop a few coins into your can.

They’re about singing Penn State fight songs with your organization’s Four Diamonds family and laughing until you’ve got tears running down your face.

They’re about leaving State College on Friday afternoon with four relative strangers and returning Sunday afternoon with four of your best friends.

Generations of THON volunteers bonded over the shared experience of braving the cold to raise money for THON. But Sunday afternoon, when canners journey back to State College, it’ll be for the last time.

THON is restructuring its fundraising model to focus on alternative fundraising — you know, all of those Facebook events you’re invited to where you feel obligated to go to Coldstone even though the Creamery is tastier and closer to your dorm. It’s difficult to imagine bonding over the shared hatred of forcing your friends to buy food they don’t particularly like every week.

Some people might tell you canning is important only because it raises a lot of money toward the annual THON fundraising total. But that’s not all it’s about.

The end of canning marks the end of an era for THON.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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