Longtime, new participants inspired by Thon

For the CDTFebruary 22, 2014 

— In 2004, Adam Zydney attended his first Thon. Since then, he’s participated each February in Penn State’s annual IFC/Panhellenic Council, marking this year as his 11th consecutive.

But despite Thon’s exponential growth in popularity, Zydney, a Penn State graduate student, said the event’s spirit remains the same.

“It’s grown in terms of people and lines obviously,” he said. “But it’s still Thon. That part hasn’t changed.”

Zydney’s first Thon took place in Rec Hall, before the 46-hour dance marathon relocated to its current home in the Bryce Jordan Center in 2007.

Experiencing Thon in Rec Hall was not that different than today’s experience, except for the capacity issues, he said. Although there were fewer people, he said, there were still the same committees, dancers and enthusiasm in the stands.

Although Rec Hall still reached capacity, Zydney said it happened much later than it does today. Last year, the Jordan Center reached capacity several times and closed its doors for the final time around 6 a.m. Sunday.

Zydney danced for Springfield in 2012 and is still a member of the organization today — though he said he acts mostly as a spectator.

“I’ll always come back,” he said. “But I’ll probably be less crazy about the hours.”

Erin McGovern, a freshman and member of a morale committee, said her first experience with Thon has been “amazing.”

The love and support that she’s seen from kids, dancers and committee members have shown her what Thon is all about, she said. McGovern said she knew when she came to Penn State that she wanted to get involved with a committee, after hearing her cousin talk about it.

McGovern said her favorite part of the weekend so far has been meeting new people, through both her committee and other participants.

“Everyone’s here for the same cause, which is amazing,” she said.

Kirsten Kelly, the Thon 2011 overall chairwoman, showed up to support the current students. Despite having graduated, Kelly said she and other Thon alumni still have a connection to the cause.

“It’s timeless when you’re in this building,” she said. “So much has changed, but the heart of everything is the same.”

The biggest difference Kelly said she’s seen so far has been the advancement of logistics, which she said happens every year. Capacity challenges increase at every Thon, she said, adding that it’s great to see a new system that will improve the experience across the board for participants.

Kelly’s first Thon took place in 2007, which she said was much different compared to today. In terms of capacity issues, Kelly said committee members were going around counting the number of people in the Jordan Center.

Perry Bindelglass experienced his first Thon in 2006 at Rec Hall, which he said was an “unbelievable experience.” As a smaller venue, Rec Hall was much “way packed,” he said, adding that the move to the Jordan Center was necessary.

Thon also didn’t have the numbers that it has now, he said. In 2007, Thon raised more than $5 million. In 2013, it raised more than $12 million.

“It was calmer, and it was just great,” he said. “It’s Thon, so it’s always energetic, but the logistics just seemed to be a little different.”

Bindelglass works as a freelance photographer, and has photographed Thon each year except for 2011 since his graduation. Being able to see the families and the kids and how they’ve grown is the best part, he said.

“It’s very inspirational,” he said.

Megan Henney is a Penn State journalism student.

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