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The Importance of THON

It is not necessary to repeat here the details of what has been neatly summed up by the Twitter hashtag “#PSUcharges.” If you are at all like me, it is all but impossible to stop oneself from reading these details. And the commentary. And the polemics. Over and over again, hoping that the next time you read something about this horrific fiasco something new will catch your eye and make it all better. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, snapped awake from a Penn State that seems like it only existed in a collective dream. The Penn State community has been shaken to its core, and suddenly it seems like all that we thought We Are, is everything that we are not.

It is not necessary to repeat here the details of what can be neatly summed up by the Twitter hashtag #FTK. By now, nearly everyone connected to Penn State is in some way also connected to THON. Every canning season, hordes of Penn State students take up positions on the streets of the northeast, brave the elements, and conjure up boatloads of cash seemingly from nowhere, all in the name of a common cause. That cause is to help kids who have had their childhoods cut short by the ravages of cancer. It is to transform medical patients back into children, to return stolen years of youth. It is a good cause, and a point of pride for all of Penn State. THON, like any organization of its size and scope, has its problems. I know students who cannot connect to THON, who feel overwhelmed by its size or its competitive nature. I know students who question the organization, structure, and sometimes even the methods of an organization that is able to raise millions of dollars, year after year. And yet, nearly everyone at Penn State agrees: the cause is good, it is all for the kids.

THON is important for many reasons. It brings hope to those who have none. It is about courage, wisdom, honesty, and strength, in a world that can be scary, and cruel. It brings people of many origins together, to laugh, hug, dance, and cry. This year, THON will have an extra significance. If all allegations are true, then we attend a university that allowed a monster into its’ midst. This man brought ruin and fear into the lives of many kids, stealing their childhoods away from them. Leaders that could have done something, instead did nothing, shaming Penn State and everything it stands for. I have no words to represent the sorrow I feel for the victims and their families. There is nothing that can take these things away, it is a taint that will be irrevocably attached to this university.

Try to take heart with the fact that in three short months, we Penn Staters will be able to stand together, to laugh, hug, dance, and cry once more. We will be able to prove to ourselves and the world that while some in our midst have hurt children, that so many more of us are dedicated to improving the lives of children who have been hurt. If you are involved in THON, continue working for the kids and their families and remind us what makes this university great. It is something that Penn State can be proud of, no matter what.

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