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Penn State Club Cross Country Runs Up THON Fundraising Goals With ‘Miles For Smiles’

As February approaches, every Penn Stater knows it’s almost THON’s time to shine. But before hundreds of students dance for a cure, clubs and THON organizations are hard at work fundraising for the grand total reveal.

Every dancer and organization finds a different way to fundraise to meet their goals. For Penn State Club Cross Country, it’s a treadmill in Waring Commons that makes all of the difference. 

Club Cross Country’s “Miles for Smiles” is a 46-hour treadmill marathon that has raised more than $175,000 for THON since its inception in 2015. The event is traditionally held at the end of January in a Waring Commons lounge. This year, it will run from 6 p.m. on Friday, January 28, to 4 p.m. on Sunday, January 30. Club Cross Country members will take turns on the treadmill during the event before the total number of miles they run will be matched with donors’ contributions.

To break up the monotony of the treadmill relay, each hour of the marathon has a different theme. This year’s themes include a Karaoke battle, a balloon animal contest, and a “Guac Power Hour” where club members attempt to make their own guacamole. Everyone is welcome to stop by to cheer on the runners and engage in the festivities.

Last year, Miles for Smiles was forced to change its plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of gathering around a treadmill, club members ran on their own and combined their total miles at the end of the marathon. Club members encouraged each other through Zoom and even got creative with their themed hours.

Jodi Patterson, the club’s current fundraising and finances chair, ran 46 miles in 2021 and was a dancer in THON 2021’s virtual celebration. 

“Being in that environment, with the team and how much they loved it, was a little extra push,” she said. “It was hard, but cancer is so much harder. I’m really excited to [have] the whole team back together.” 

Last year, the club hit its fundraising goal of $50,000 in spite of last year’s obstacles. This time around, it is aiming to break its 2020 total of $62,000. 

Club Cross Country is sponsored by Nittany Valley Running Club and a host of downtown businesses. Club members fundraise through DonorDrive, a platform that allows users to create personalized pages to connect with potential donors. Some of the largest donations come from former members of the club who have since graduated from Penn State

Internal communications chair Jake Connolly stressed the importance of the club’s alumni continuing to support the marathon. 

“Since our club is one of the biggest on campus, our alumni numbers are huge as well,” he said. “They’re always sticking around trying to help us with corporate matching from their companies or just [donating] themselves.” 

Over the years, Miles for Smiles has become an important bonding event for Club Cross Country, too. Donor and alumni relations chair Rachel Clark says the fundraiser has helped the club develop more of a family-like atmosphere.

“It’s where a lot of people realize that they love Club XC and want to become more involved,” she said. “It’s great to see everyone come together around the treadmill and cheer on the runners. It definitely connects people who are involved in this cause.” 

Those interested in donating to Club Cross Country can visit its DonorDrive page or contact the club’s THON chairs to pledge a per-mile donation. For more information about Club Cross Country, visit its official website.

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About the Author

Adam Babetski

Adam Babetski is a senior double majoring in communications and medieval history. He's from the only part of Virginia without tractors and southern accents. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBabetski for hot takes about sports. For serious inquiries, email [email protected]

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