Ready to dance and make a difference: Scranton campus trio takes on THON 2024

The three female students chosen as dancers pose for a photo at the reveal, holding flowers

Penn State Scranton's THON 2024 dancers — Mahek Gandhi, Ashley Torres and Abby Gaebel, left to right — pose for a photo during the recent THON Dancer Reveal held at Penn State Scranton. The three are excited about participating in the 46-hour dance marathon and have been preparing themselves physically over the past few weeks for the experience.

Credit: Morgan Sewack

DUNMORE, Pa. — The Penn State Scranton community has learned which students will be representing the campus as its THON 2024 dancers during THON Weekend, set for Feb. 16-18 at University Park’s Bryce Jordan Center.

Abigal Gaebel, Mahek Gandhi and Ashley Torres will join thousands of other Penn State students in the grueling, yet life-changing, 46-hour, no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon that raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund and children battling pediatric cancer.

With this year’s THON theme being  “Treasure Every Adventure,” the dancers are poised to embrace every moment of their journey on and off the dance floor. The theme serves as a reminder to cherish the unique adventures life has to offer, resonating deeply with each dancer as they prepare for the marathon.

Torres said she was “excited and happy” to hear she was chosen as one of this year’s dancer and added, “I want to get the full experience out of my first THON.”

She also served as Penn State Scranton’s THON co-chair for this year and is eager to immerse herself even further into the THON community.

“To me, THON means supporting our THON child, Arelis. I am part of THON to gain awareness of what THON is and to get more people involved. It means being a part of something bigger than myself and part of a good cause.”

—Ashley Torres , Penn State Scranton THON 2024 dancer

“To me, THON means supporting our THON child, Arelis,” Torres said. “I am part of THON to gain awareness of what THON is and to get more people involved. It means being a part of something bigger than myself and part of a good cause.”

For Gandhi, the news of her selection brought about an overwhelming sense of excitement.

“I felt unimaginably excited when I finally got a chance to look at the email. I was shocked to receive the email, but as soon as I saw who my other dancers were, I realized I was prepared for THON,” she said. “I consider THON to be a source of hope for children and their families. I THON in order to support our THON child, Arelis Rodriguez, to the best of my ability and for all of the effort that our THON organization puts forward year-round in order raise the maximum amount of money.”

Gaebel, echoing her fellow dancers’ sentiments, emphasized the significance of THON and her excitement to dance with Gandhi and Torres.

“I immediately felt ecstatic and absolutely honored to be picked for this position. Being a THON dancer is a once in a lifetime experience that I couldn’t be more thrilled to embark upon with Ashley and Mahek!” she said. “THON symbolizes the fight for children with pediatric cancer who deserve a happy, healthy childhood. Most importantly, I THON for Arelis, to support her on her journey.”

Preparation for the dance marathon

In the weeks leading up to THON, each dancer has been preparing for the strenuous 46-hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon by adopting healthier habits in their diet and exercise routines.

Torres said she has cut out soda and caffeine from her diet and has increased her water intake while incorporating campus yoga sessions and gym visits.

Similarly, Gandhi adjusted her diet by eliminating sugar as much as possible and incorporating standing into her daily routine.

Gaebel has ramped up her workout routine to ensure physical preparedness for the dance marathon by increasing daily steps, stretching, and reducing caffeine intake.

Looking forward to dancing For The Kids

As THON Weekend approaches, all three dancers are eagerly anticipating the memories they will create. Torres said she is most looking forward to meeting new people on the floor during THON.

“I am also looking forward to the big moments like when we all stand up, when we all sit down, and the total amount revealed,” Torres said.

Gandhi is also anticipating significant moments on the dance floor.

“While there are many aspects of being a dancer that I enjoy, spending time on the dance floor with my fellow dancers, Ashley and Abby, is one of the most significant things,” Gandhi said. “I just know that having those two girls by my side, 46 hours won’t be as unpleasant.”

Gaebel is ready to make memories with the Four Diamonds kids and listen to their impactful stories during the final four hours.

“I am most looking forward to the final four hours, where the families we have supported share their heartfelt stories and journeys. I also can’t wait to meet the kids who attend THON and play lots of fun games,” Gaebel said.

Support Scranton's THON efforts

While THON Weekend is only a few days away, it is not too late to support our campus’ THON efforts.

“To support the larger THON mission, donating to our campus chapter is a great way to increase Penn State Scranton’s involvement in THON,” Gaebel said.

Donations can be made through our campus’ virtual donor drive, which will continue to run throughout THON Weekend. The money raised by THON goes directly to the Four Diamonds Fund to enhance the lives of children and families by providing emotional and financial support, spreading awareness, and ensuring funding for critical research, all in pursuit of a cure.

Any monetary donation to THON, big or small, is encouraged and will help make a positive difference For The Kids and their families.

“Another great way to support Ashley, Mahek and I is to attend THON as a spectator and enjoy THON Weekend alongside of us,” Gaebel said.

If you are unable to attend THON Weekend, you still have the opportunity to support and cheer on the dancers in person at the campus’ annual THON Dancer Send Off event taking place from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15, in The View Café.

Since its inception in 1973, Penn State’s THON has raised more than $200 million for over 4,000 families affected by pediatric cancer. Last year, THON raised a total of $15 million, with $30,468.66 of that total raised at Penn State Scranton — putting Penn State Scranton in the top 10 among all Commonwealth Campuses.