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Dancing For the Kids

Roderick Bell, Jenn Bradley, Mike Klunk, and Ben Altland
1/23/2008 —

Eating healthier, buying new socks, exercising, and breaking in their dancing shoes are just a few things Penn State York students Ben Altland, 19; Roderick Bell, 18;  Jenn Bradley, 19, and Mike Klunk, 21 are doing as they get ready to head to University Park to represent the campus in the Thirty-sixth Annual IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, “Hope Finds a Way,” set for Feb. 22 – 24 at the Bryce Jordan Center.  This is the first year York has sent four dancers so history is being made.  The four were chosen to dance based on spirit points they earned since September by doing a variety of activities to raise funds for THON and promote the event.   In the past, just two dancers from the campus had the opportunity to participate in the event.  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 35 years, the students of THON have raised more than $46 million and have helped thousands of children and families fight pediatric cancer.   Last year the event raised more than $5.2 million and broke its own record. 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.

For York’s dancers, and members of the campus’ THON committee headed by, Bell and Klunk, the year has included a variety of fund-raising efforts such as selling raffle tickets for a Penn State basket, hosting a talent show called Paw Search, manning the coat check at the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, and successfully taking part in canning weekends (soliciting donations) at several locations in the York area. 

In addition to raising money, the dancers have also become close with Madison “Maddie” Hill, “York’s THON child” and her family.  Through THON,  Penn State York sponsors the Hill family and over the past three years, dancers and the campus community have grown close to them.  Hill, 10, of Dover, PA, has been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since October 2004 and is set to complete her treatments in February 2008.  

Altland, 19, is a sophomore in the animal biology science and a graduate of Spring Grove High School.   He has been active in a variety of THON activities throughout the year and has visited the Hill family numerous times and attended  Maddie’s  soccer games.   Thanks to friend and fellow dancer Mike Klunk, Altland got involved in THON.  “I’m excited to be a dancer and have the opportunity to meet the THON families and the kids who benefit from our efforts.  I think it will be a rewarding experience that I won’t forget.”

Bell, 18, is a freshman in public relations and a graduate of Central York High School.  He is a co-chair for THON at York and has been active in a variety of THON activities.  He was the organizer and host of Paw Search and has also canned dressed as the Penn State Nittany Lion.  “I dance For the Kids.  THON is like the culmination of all the hard work we’ve put in to make a successful year, For the Kids."

Bradley, 19, is a freshman in architectural engineering and a graduate of Manheim Township High School in Lancaster County.  She has been involved in numerous fund-raising activities for THON and helped out with Paw Search and a holiday party benefiting THON.  Bradley has canned in numerous locations and is always ready to do anything that’s needed for THON.  “I wanted to dance in THON because it is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with the kids that we’ve been raising money to help.   I’m really excited to do this, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Klunk, 21, is a junior electro-mechanical engineering technology major and a graduate of New Oxford High School.   He is a THON co-chair and has been the life blood of canning for Penn State York.  Klunk’s dedication to visiting Maddie and her family, scheduling THON meetings on campus, and keeping everyone organized is second to none.  “THON is something that makes me happy.    I find helping others, especially children with cancer, extremely rewarding.  I’m looking forward to spending 46 hours with my fellow dancers and most importantly my inspiration, the kids.”

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.

Anyone interested in helping with the York THON Committee should contact Bell or Klunk.  THON meetings are held Wednesdays at noon in room 107 of the Main Classroom Building at Penn State York.

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
Penn State York
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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