College Student Philanthropy

Penn State Thon

Dance Marathon was held this weekend at Indiana University.  Dance Marathon is more than just about fundraising money for the kids (FTK); it is also an amazing example of student philanthropy. In thinking about Dance Marathons that will happen all over this country, here’s a more in-depth look at Thon at Penn State, said to be one of the origins of this charitable event.

Colleges and universities all around the United States want their students to become more civically engaged through different organizations. An example of how students are donating their time, talents and treasure is shown through the Pennsylvania State University’s (Penn State) Dance Marathon, or Thon. “Said to be the largest student philanthropic enterprise in the world, THON has raised more than $100 million over its 38 years of existence for Hershey Medical Center’s Four Diamonds Fund, which helps children with cancer”(Gordon, ¶2, 2013). The Four Diamonds Foundation, run through the Penn State University Medical Center in Hershey, PA, “offsets the cost of treatment that insurance does not cover, as well as expenses that may disrupt the welfare of the child, such as car repairs, rent, or household utilities. The Fund supports the medical team that cares for the children and funds pediatric cancer research through start-up grants and the Four Diamonds Pediatric Cancer Research Institute”(Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, 2008).

According to the Thon Website, “Penn State students have raised more than $100,000,000 million since the first Dance Marathon in 1973” (Penn State Thon, 2013). Fundraising begins in October and runs through February, up until and during Thon. Students raise the money by canning (canister solicitation), pledge booking, letter /door-to-door solicitation, corporate donations, and alternative fundraising events (Penn State Thon, 2013). In 2013, Thon dancers, fundraisers, and volunteers collectively raised over $13 million to support the Four Diamonds Foundation. I believe it is with the help of the volunteers and the effort put into raising all the money for a cause will help Penn State students realize that they are actively engaging in philanthropic charity to help kids with cancer. It is this same attitude and outlook that has helped this program to grow since 1973.

In thinking about the structure of how this even comes together, there is a 16- person executive board, who manage the following: Communications, Dancer relations, Donor and alumni relations, entertainment, family relations, finance, hospitality, merchandise, operations, physical plant relations, public relations, rules and regulations: event safety, rules and regulations: volunteer safety, special events, supply logistics, and technology. Essentially, these students are running a non-profit organization, teaching them some great skills to help them succeed post college.

Dance Marathons are really great for students as well as the organizations that receive the money from the dancers. Dance Marathons teach students about philanthropy, running a non-profit, and is a great leadership opportunity.

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