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Local Dancers get Ready to Dance “For the Kids”

York THON Dancers
2/2/2007 —

Cutting the caffeine, eating right, exercising, and just trying to stay healthy are top priorities for Penn State York students Swara Shah, 20, and Kelley Dennis, 19, as they get ready to head to University Park to represent the campus in the Thirty-fifth Annual IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, “Many Hearts One Home,” set for Feb. 16 ­ 18 at the Bryce Jordan Center.  This is the first year the Thon event takes place in the Jordan Center.   Thon, as the dance marathon is affectionately known, is the largest student-run philanthropy in the country and its goal is to raise money to help fight pediatric cancer.

This year round fund-raising event benefits The Four Diamonds Fund, Conquering Childhood Cancer, at the Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey, PA. The year culminates in a no-sitting, no-sleeping, two day dance marathon. Throughout the past 34 years, the students of Thon have raised more than $41 million and have helped thousands of children and families fight pediatric cancer.   Last year the event raised more than $4.2 million.  The mission of the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon is to conquer pediatric cancer by providing outstanding emotional and financial support to the children, families, researchers, and staff of The Four Diamonds Fund.

During Thon weekend, more than 700 dancers and thousands of supporters come together at University Park in the hopes of one day finding a cure for pediatric cancer. Whether standing for 46 hours as a dancer, entertaining the crowd, taking care of the facility, or even sitting in the stands, every person at Thon plays a small part in creating an amazing atmosphere of love, compassion, and understanding. This atmosphere inspires the students to fund raise throughout the year and tells the families of The Four Diamonds Fund that they have the care and support they need. This collective effort, involving more than 15,000 students, has become one of Penn State's greatest and most unifying traditions.

For Shah, Dennis, and members of the campus’ Thon committee headed by George Kapterian, local Thon chairperson and two-time dancer, the year has included a variety of fund-raising efforts from Thon-A-Palooza, a mini dance marathon involving area students; two band nights; and manning the coat check at the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center.  Beginning Monday, Feb. 5 the group will be selling Sweet Willows Creamery ice cream outside the Lion’s Den on campus.  York has raised about $8,000 and hopes to break a campus record of $10,000.

Shah, 20, is a sophomore majoring in business and a graduate of Dallastown High School.  Shah is very close with the family that Penn State York sponsors and over the past two years has grown very close to Madison “Maddie” Hill, “York’s Thon child.”  Hill, 9, of Dover, PA, has been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since October 2005 and will be undergoing treatments through July 2008.  “I am dancing for the kids of course, but also because Thon has become part of my heart and soul and in the past two years I have dedicated most of my free time to doing Thon activities and planning them out.  Maddie has also become like a little sister to me and I am dancing for her, as well as all the other kids.”

Dennis, 19,  an anthropology major and dance minor, is a graduate of Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill.  She hasn’t  been involved with Thon as long as Shah, but has her own reasons for believing so strongly in Penn State’s cause.  “My best friend, whom I had known since elementary school, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was in eighth grade.   He spent over a year in and out of Duke University Hospital and Hershey Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital.  I spent so much time at both locations and watched too many children suffer through their battles with cancer.   You cannot imagine what cancer does, not only to the kids diagnosed but also to the family and friends as well.  Anyone who has been in that situation knows how important our cause is to those families.  It has been five years since my friend died, but I have never forgotten him or those children.   That’s why I dance,” Dennis said.

With such a passionate team behind Penn State York’s cause, local Thon chair Kapterian is confident the campus can reach its goal of more than $10,000.  “I believe with the committee’s heart and determination as well as the support of Penn State York students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends, we can totally do it.  After all, it's for the kids!”

There’s still time to donate.  Anyone interested in supporting the dancers from Penn State York can send checks made payable to:

Penn State Dance Marathon
c/o York Student Government Association
1031 Edgecomb Ave.
York, PA   17403

Checks sent to the local campus will be credited to the local dancers and
then added to the final total at University Park.

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