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Thon volunteers open canning season

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Penn State students are getting canny this weekend.

Participants in the annual Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, the beloved event known simply as Thon, are hitting the streets and taking positions to start raising money with the first canning weekend of this school year.

“We are very excited,” Thon media relations representative Erin Brooks said.

Thon is made up of more than 15,000 student volunteers from more than 375 student organizations. For canning weekends, teams travel to hometowns and other locations across Pennsylvania and other states, armed with signs and cans and a goal to raise money to fight pediatric cancer.

“We are spreading out all over throughout the Northeast,” Brooks said.

This year, one team will even make inroads into the Midwest, going as far as Illinois.

The aim every year is simple: Beat the previous year’s total. In 2015, that means they will try to top the $13.3 million raised last year. Brooks says canning, or what is called “individual donations” in the official data, is a critical part of that, but the weekends mean even more.

“It helps us be able to spread our mission,” she said.

But while trying to save lives, Thon organizers are putting an increased emphasis on student safety at the same time. All volunteers canning this year are required to complete the new online safety course, the Thon e-Learning Management System. Trip leader guides caution canners to avoid medians, roads without sidewalks, traffic circles, ramps and other dangerous areas.

“You may not step into the street for any reason,” the guide states.

Caution is paramount after a canner died in a car accident in 2011.

“The safety of our volunteers is of the utmost importance,” rules and regulations volunteer safety Director Jack Small said. “The TeLMS fundraising safety e-course allows student volunteers to educate themselves on safe and effective canning practices anywhere they can access a computer.”

Money raised through Thon goes to the Four Diamonds Fund. According to Thon, 96 percent of last year’s total went to the charity.

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