WYOMISSING, Pa. — Rather than traveling to the Bryce Jordan Center with a busload of friends and family members, four Penn State Berks dancers spent the weekend of Feb. 19–21 in the apartment of one of the dancers. Despite the unique challenges the pandemic posed, the students rose to the occasion, raising $36,359.10 and earning second place among the Commonwealth Campuses for THON fundraising. Overall, THON 2021 raised a grand total of $10,638,078.62 for Four Diamonds to fund pediatric cancer research and support children and families fighting childhood cancer.
The Berks Benefitting THON dancers included: senior Derek DeTommaso; juniors Olivia Ahr and Rebecca “Becca” Zeiner; and sophomore Nandini Patel. The Berks dancers followed all COVID-19 guidelines: They were tested prior to being together, wore masks, and ensured that no more than 10 people were together at a time.
All four dancers agreed that dancing in a residence, in this case Derek DeTommaso’s apartment, versus the Bryce Jordan Center was a special experience and one they will never forget.
Ahr stated, “I liked the fact that when dancing in the residence, it felt like you had more freedom to move around and take time for yourself.”
Patel added, “The amount of support and push we got from our friends and the advisers was absolutely amazing. Everyone around us created a fun and interactive environment to keep us busy and occupied.”
Behind the scenes, the THON executive board worked tirelessly over the year to organize events and raise funds during the pandemic, with the support of many other volunteers, all committed to this very worthwhile cause.
“This year I think it was more about pushing the DonorDrive more than anything else and really spreading THON's mission,” said Zeiner. “The THON community came together and was amazing even through a pandemic.”
Berks Benefitting THON held a THON Dancer Week leading up to the event. On Monday, they held a viewing party for the "Why We Dance" movie. Tuesday, they hosted a "Family Feud" event. Wednesday, they served the dancers’ favorite desserts at Tully’s dining center on campus. And on Thursday, they held a social media livestream to countdown THON weekend, announce the fundraising total, give updates on the THON families, and more.
While some students echoed the challenges they faced getting attendees to participate in virtual events, DeTommaso commented, “Some of our bigger events we were able to host virtually like our Inspire the Night Benefit Dinner, which went extremely well, and we were able to raise over $12,000. All our hard work goes towards such a wonderful cause that is worth it in the end to see all our fundraising benefit the families we support and the Four Diamonds Foundation.”
The students were supported by staff and alumni advisers, including Alexa Wojciechowski, Aubrey Edwards, Brooke Burkey, Bernadette Samanns and Amanda Alpuche.
About Penn State THON
In 1977, the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon established its relationship with Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Four Diamonds directly assists the families at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, while funding research in pursuit of a cure. To date, THON has contributed more than $180 million to support children and their families fighting pediatric cancer. Every year, more than 16,00 student volunteers devote their time and effort to raise money through fundraising events. The hard work of each and every volunteer culminates every February during THON weekend for a 46-hour dance marathon celebration in the Bryce Jordan Center at University Park.
Berks Benefitting THON at Penn State Berks works collaboratively with THON at Penn State University Park to raise funds and spread awareness of pediatric cancer. The student organization holds fundraisers throughout the year, including a 5K run/walk, a Vera Bradley and Sports Bingo event, and an Inspire the Night Dinner, just to name a few.