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SPECIAL REPORT: Campus raises record $52,392 for THON

Four diamonds...(l-r) Nicki Thoma, Deanna Mazur, Kiki Wilkinson and Megan Pulaski, danced ...For the Kids...at THON.
2/22/2011 —


Kelly Sieja chairs historic event

STATE COLLEGE, Pa.--The THON committee at Penn State New Kensington, headed by senior Kelly Sieja, shattered the campus record by raising $52,392 for the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon that benefits the Four Diamonds Fund and the fight against pediatric cancer.

The total topped the stated goal of $40,000 and eclipsed the previous record of $23,000 set just last year. The campus ranked third among Penn State's 19 commonwealth campuses. New Kensington students Nicole Thoma, Deanna Mazur, Megan Pulaski and Kiki Wilkinson represented the campus at the University-wide event.

"This was an absolute amazing weekend and I never anticipated us making our goal, yet we surpassed it," said Sieja, a senior psychology major. "I'm overwhelmed with different emotions and I'm so proud that New Kensington made a difference."

Mazur's participation added another dimension to the project: administrator-turned-dancer. The Natrona Heights native was the event's chair last and guided the effort that set the previous campus standard.  She stepped down after serving two terms and raising more than $30,000. After experiencing both sides of the massive fundraising process, her commitment to the Four Diamonds fund was reinforced this year.

"Having seen THON from two different perspectives, chair and dancer, the four diamonds, strength, courage, honesty, and wisdom, mean so much more to me now, then ever before," said Mazur, who graduates in May with a bachelor's degree in business administration. "I want to help lift the burden cancer puts on a family physically, financially, and emotionally.

Throughout the no-sitting, no-sleeping event, dancers were supported by the entertainment and the crowds in the stands. Many of the Four Diamonds families who benefit from the money raised at THON also were in attendance. One family had lost already lost a child to cancer.

"Standing there the last four hours, feet hurting, eyes heavy, and then hearing a father say we (the dancers) are why his family still is at THON, even though his daughter has passed away, put it all into perspective," said Mazur, who devotes numerous hours to a campus and community activities throughout the year.

Overall, THON broke all records again this year, raising more than $9.5 million and bringing the total raised since its inception in 1977 to nearly $80 million. THON is believed to be the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

More than 15,000 volunteers supported the cause which offers financial and emotional support to pediatric cancer patients and their families and also funds cancer research. Approximately 100 new families receive support each year.

For more information, contact Sieja, kms5745@psu.edu via e-mail. For more on THON, visit http://www.thon.org/ online.


 'Dancing for the Kids' during 46-hour,
no-sitting, no-sleeping fundraiser
Bryce Jordan Center

Valley News Dispatch (17 Feb 2011)

Bed! Bed! I couldn't go to bed! My head's too light to try to set it down!
Sleep! Sleep! I couldn't sleep tonight. Not for all the jewels in the crown!
I could have danced all night! I could have danced all night! And still have begged for more.
I could have spread my wings And done a thousand things I've never done before….
"I Could Have Danced All Night," by Alan Jay Lerner for the musical "My Fair Lady"

Julie Andrews could have danced all night but Penn State New Kensington students Nicole Thoma, Deanna Mazur, Megan Pulaski and Kiki Wilkinson are dancing all night...and day.

The quartet is hoofing it this weekend, Feb. 18 to 20, at University Park, furing the 39th edition of the annual Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (affectionately known as THON),  a University-wide event whose goal is to fight childhood cancer. Aided by their morale coaches or "moralers" as they are known in the THON circles, the New Kensington dancers join more than 700 Penn State students from all the campuses at the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's University Park campus during the 46-hour, no sitting, no sleeping marathon. All monies raised through the dance marathon directly benefit the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

"Becoming a dancer for THON is one of my biggest achievements at the campus," said Megan Pulaski, a nursing student from Murrysville. "Through THON, I have met some amazing people."

According to Kelly Sieja, THON Committee chair for the New Kensington campus, the number of dancers going to University Park from each campus is based on the amount of money raised by the campus previous year. The selection of Thoma, Mazur, Pulaski, and Wilkinson were based on canning hours, meetings attended, and raising at least $800 apiece.

 "I always thought I didn't have enough time to get this involved with something at school, but THON changed that for me," said Nicki Thoma, a sophomore business administration major from Saxonburg.  "I never witnessed a miracle until I attended THON weekend last year as a supporter. What these kids go through at such a young age is something that none of us will ever face in a lifetime.  Until there is a cure, we will dance for love, dance for life, but most of all dance for the kids."

New Kensington's goal is a secret, but suffices to say, it is the most ambitious total in campus history, and 80 percent of the total is already in the bank. Since last semester, campus students have been fundraising in earnest, canning, wrapping Christmas presents and throwing pies for what is believed to be the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. During canning, Sieja's cadre of volunteers stood outsides areas businesses and collected money from patrons.  

"Our THON team put their hearts into this organization, said Sieja, a senior psychology major."There is no doubt in my mind that our efforts will lead to another record-breaking year."

Nicki, Deanna, Kiki and Megan helped shatter the campus fundraising record. 

The campus record of $23,000 was set last year. Mazur was the event's chair, and the total shattered the previous campus standard of $13,000 in 2004. Mazur stepped down as THON chair after serving two years and raising more than $30,000. The administrator-turned-dancer is excited and nervous about the opportunity to get right into the mix and be a participant on the floor.

"I'm used to cheering the dancers on and giving pep talks," said Mazur, who will graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in business administration. "Now, to be on the floor and actually dancing for 46 hours is quite a different matter. I'm counting on my moraler."

The University Park THON committee assigns each dancer a moraler who can attend to their needs during the marathon. Be it food, drink, or inspiration, the moraler's responsibility is to help the dancers get through the three-day event. Inspiration won't be a problem for Mazur.  

"To know that I am helping to lift the financial and emotional burden that these families face is more than enough motivation for me to stand the entire forty-six hours," said Mazur, the 2010 of the Penn State Spirit award. "Being part of something bigger than me, bigger than this entire university, is the most humbling feeling in the world."

The final totals for New Kensington and all the other Penn State units will be announced after the conclusion of the marathon. Since 1977, THON has raised more than $69 million for the charity During the past nine years, more than $93,000 in donations came from the New Kensington campus.

The campus dancers had a grand send-off on Feb. 17, with a campus-wide “pot-luck’ dinner. The terpsichoreans needed to “carbo-load” and students, faculty and staff brought an assortment of pastas and other high-energy foods to help the foursome boogie all weekend. In Greek mythology, Terpsichore was the muse of dancing. The New Kensington team's inspirational slogan is "Eight feet, four hearts, one cause...for the kids."

In addition to the dinner, the campus is supporting the dancers with 60 other students and friends in the stands, who will cheer on the dancers throughout the marathon. In addition, a group of campus students will make a day tip by bus to the Bryce Jordan Center.

"THON has changed my life in so many ways, it has made me more aware of who I am, and it has shown me how kind the world can be, "said Wilkinson, a first-year student in the Radiological Sciences program."No matter how bad I think my life is, it is a piece of cake compared to the kids who are fighting for their lives, fighting for another smile, fighting for another laugh."

For more information, contact Sieja, kms5745@psu.edu via e-mail. For more on THON, visit http://www.thon.org/ online.


Megan Karl, left, and Sarah Calligan were THON dancers last year.

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