Three female students pose on the dance floor of the Bryce Jordan Center.

"For the Kids" Always

Three Penn State Scranton students had the experience of a lifetime at THON 2024, dancing for 46 hours straight to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer. They were also there for the announcement that Penn State Scranton had raised $32,915, putting the campus sixth in fundraising among all the Commonwealth Campuses.

By Justin Dorneman

DUNMORE, Pa . Another year, another record set For The Kids. THON 2024 – Treasure Every Adventure raised a total of $16,955,683.46 for the Four Diamonds Fund and to support pediatric cancer research, marking the third consecutive year that the annual 46-hour no-sleep, no-sitting Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon posted a fundraising record. 

Among the more than 700 Penn State students who danced the nights away from Friday, Feb. 16 to Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College were Penn State Scranton’s own Abigail Gaebel, Ashley Torres and Mahek Gandhi.  

The daunting task of staying awake and on their feet for almost two days straight was one that the dancers met with plenty of emotions.

“I was feeling both nervous and excited,” said Gandhi, a senior information technology (IT) student, who also serves as the vice president of the campus’ Student Government Association. “I was thrilled to be part of this amazing experience, but I was also anxious about how I would perform over the 46 hours.” 

Torres, a senior psychology student, echoed that sentiment. “I was nervous, but more excited than anything,” she stated. 

There was much going on during the weekend to help the dancers keep their energy up, such as games, “THON Salon,” musical performers, line dances, snack stands, a pep rally and stories from the “Four Diamonds Families.” 

The weekend kicked off at 6 p.m. Friday night, followed shortly thereafter by the introduction of the 2024 THON line dance, curated by the THON Dancer Relations captains, which played each hour of the weekend to keep an upbeat and high pace and helped the dancers and supporters to keep their energy up during the weekend, which Torres cited as one of the most fun parts of the weekend. 

I loved doing the line dance and playing games with my DRCM (Dancer Relations Committee Member),” she added.

Following the introduction of this year’s line dance, award-winning pop-rock band WALK THE MOON, known for their 2014 hit, “Shut Up and Dance,” rocked the Bryce Jordan Center’s stage. 

THON rolled on into the snow-filled hours of Saturday with more festivities to keep the dancers going strong during the grueling marathon. Some of the events included a kid’s fashion and talent show, kids’ mail, several stage acts and guest speakers, as well as the THON Pep Rally, which included guest appearances from Penn State Football Head Coach James Franklin and Penn State Basketball Head Coach Mike Rhoades, as well as dance performances from many of Penn State’s varsity sports teams. 

Scranton support was welcomed 

The dancers were joined throughout the weekend by groups of supporters from Penn State Scranton, who as usual, took up shop in Section 208 of the Bryce Jordan Center’s stands. The support from their fellow classmates helped the dancers push through the weekend, even when their energy seemed to dwindle. 

“Having such enthusiastic, excited supporters from Scranton offered immense support throughout the weekend, and constantly offered something to look forward to,” said Gaebel, a senior biology student, who also serves as the chief justice of the Scranton’s Student Government Association. “It was exciting to see who would be joining us dancers on the floor.” 

The impact of the support was felt by Gandhi’s fellow dancers as well, both of whom felt it was integral to finishing the marathon. 

The support from everyone, my DSP’s, who were my brother Stephen, and my boyfriend Joe, helped me emotionally when my energy was beginning to drop,” said Torres. “The support for the dancers from my organization helped to keep me busy and remind me of the impact I was making.” 

However, despite the impact of the support from family, classmates, and advisors, both above and below, it was the support that the trio had for each other that helped carry them through. 

The main reason I was able to finish THON was because of the support I had from Abby, Ashley, and my family,” Gandhi said. “Ashley and Abby always had such an upbeat mindset and energy that I didn’t feel like I was struggling.” 

For The Kids, Always

The entertainment and stage acts continued into Sunday, which eventually brought the coveted “Final Four.” During these hours, Family Hour takes place, as well as stories from Four Diamonds families, and the recognition of all Four Diamonds families, one of THON’s most important moments. 

It’s also the time when the fundraising total for this year’s THON was announced.  

This year, Penn State Scranton X Benefitting THON raised a total of $32,915.27, which made them the sixth highest fundraising organization out of the Commonwealth Campuses. 

“I am so proud of all the efforts of our campus. I didn’t go in with any expectations, so seeing that we got sixth was so amazing,” Torres, who also serves as the organization’s co-chair, said. 

Gaebel, who also sits on the Penn State Scranton X Benefitting THON executive board shared that sentiment, stating, “All of our efforts are driven by a passion to fight for children facing pediatric cancer, and being sixth was a way to truly illustrate the motivation our campus has towards the cause.”

Throughout all of the hard work before and during THON, the trio did it all for a cause they believe in, and for one bigger than themselves. Having spent two days straight together, they are now connected for life, and have made memories that will last a lifetime.

“For the kids, always,” said Torres.