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THON Plants Seeds For Future Success At THON 2020

What a weekend, folks.

THON 2020 wrapped up with a momentous reveal that the organization had raised $11,696,942.38 for the kids this time around to culminate this year’s festivities Sunday afternoon.

Once the confetti had blown and the dust had settled, Four Diamonds Executive Director Suzanne Graney and Four Diamonds co-founder Charles Millard met with the media alongside Regina Duesler and Dan Mele — THON 2020’s executive director and public relations director, respectively — for a post-THON press conference.

“We are so incredibly thrilled with the success of this weekend and this year’s fundraising efforts and we’d like to first off begin by thanking everybody who made this possible,” Mele said to open the press conference. “There are countless stakeholders with this organization that we rely on in order to continue the success of such an incredibly large organization.”

Graney continued that sentiment, noting the sacrifices and dedicated efforts of THON’s countless student volunteers.

“I congratulate our student leaders who all year have just been so consistent and focused and dedicated to making awareness happen for childhood chancer, for raising as much as they possibly could to help Four Diamonds,” Graney said. “Even more important than that, creating just connection and commitment to the childhood cancer community, helping families. I’m incredibly grateful to their volunteer service and what they do every year.”

Millard, who just experienced his 43rd THON, seconded Mele and Graney’s words and added that he was excited to see such a packed Bryce Jordan Center all weekend long.

“I’m just overwhelmed,” Millard stated.

Duesler echoed that sentiment and noted that THON 2020’s success is a direct result of the efforts of student volunteers who came before it.

“We could not have done this without thousands and thousands of people, and that’s not just students who are working behind the scenes,” Duesler said. “THON was not built in a day… There have been millions and millions and millions of hours spent by the people before us laying down the foundation for us to grow upon and to really expand and help more and more families.”

THON 2020 raised nearly $1 million more than 2019, which certainly put a smile on Duesler’s face.

“We have had so many incredible student organizations that have been defying the limits of creativity, determination, and really thinking outside the box,” she said. “They have really done so many things to raise funds in ways that they have never before.”

Duesler added that collaboration between orgs and increased use of social media helped fuel the rise in fundraising totals.

“It’s more than money. What’s provided here is hope,” Graney said. “Over and over again, those dollars will go to work making it possible for families to have the care at Penn State Children’s Hospital without seeing a medical bill and being able to focus their time and energy on helping to make sure their child is getting well.”

Duesler said that the majority of this year’s 707 dancers finished THON 2020 successfully. She believes dancers seemed happier both physically and emotionally thanks in large part to the efforts of Dancer Relations committee members, who underwent new training this year.

Later, the press conference took a turn when the four panelists began highlighting how THON increased its efforts to spread to younger generations.

Millard noted his experiences meeting several Mini-THONs from around Pennsylvania Saturday, many of which were put on by local high schools.

“I told them that it’s not so much about the amount of money they raise, but it’s what they themselves experience,” Millard said. “What we do for ourselves, whether it’s necessary or good and noble, dies with us. But what we do for others goes on.

“It’s very interesting to see the enthusiasm that these people have and likewise the Mini-THONs,” he continued. “There were 300 of them this year. It’s amazing. The whole program is unique in Pennsylvania and the neighboring states. It’s not happening anyplace else in the United States.”

Graney added that she brought her high-school-age nephew to see THON for the first time ever this weekend, noting that he’s “leaning toward Penn State” for when decision day comes.

“Being able to pass down that enthusiasm and that sense of pride to people who are in high school and middle school and they see [on] the news or on social media what THON is, even to spark interest in something as large as Penn State and this organization is really special,” Mele said.

The panel agreed that participation in THON through this way, though indirect, is key to planting seeds for THONs future success and helping the organization grow, develop, and flourish.

Millard noted that it’s truly impossible to experience THON until you’re physically there yourself.

“Over the years, I could never get through to people what it was like to experience THON,” Millard said. “We’ve got something that’s so fantastic, you can’t explain it to people. You have to see it and experience it to know what it’s all about.”

Thousands of folks in the BJC experienced the magic Millard described this weekend. According to Duesler, that support is key to maintaining THON’s hopes for the future and its drive to defeat childhood cancer.

“Every single person in that arena felt the warmth of THON and felt that if there’s hope for THON, there’s hope for the future, and there’s hope that one day we will dance in celebration of a cure because of those thousands of people,” Duesler said.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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