Thon canning has been put on hold in a decision made Monday by the student-run organization.
The upcoming Oct. 23-25 canning weekend has been suspended, and the organization will evaluate canning and additional safety precautions for student volunteers.
The development comes in the aftermath of Vitalya “Tally” Sepot’s death. She was a 19-year-old sophomore from Branford, Conn., who died Sept. 27 when she and six other students were in a one-vehicle crash on the Turnpike near the King of Prussia exit. The students were returning from a canning trip in which they raised donations for the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, which annually raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
In a letter posted on Thon’s official website, Executive Director Katie Mailey said the organization will conduct a review of policies, procedures and programs of canning and Thon’s fundraising model.
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“There is no doubt that this has been an extremely difficult week for many in our Thon and Penn State communities after the loss of Tally Sepot. Our hearts continue to be with Tally’s family and friends during this heartbreaking time,” Mailey said. “This past week, we have received multiple emails and calls from community members concerned with volunteer safety.”
The suspension, Mailey said, is to ensure safety for student volunteers and to allow time to evaluate Thon policies and procedures before the third scheduled canning weekend, Nov. 13-15, which has not been suspended.
The decision to suspend the canning weekend is effective for all campuses, whether or not students require travel for canning.
Over the past few years, according to Mailey, Thon has implemented policies and practices aimed at improving the safety for volunteers. Students are trained through a mandatory course on the Thon e-Learning Management System, an online module-based education tool, to learn about safe fundraising practices, donor interaction and travel safety.
Sepot was the second student volunteer for Thon to die in a car crash during a canning weekend in four years.
Courtney O’Bryan, of Huntington, N.Y., died in December 2011 as a result of injuries from a car crash, which occurred when the vehicle she was in hit black ice and flipped over near Bradford. O’Bryan, who was a freshman, and five other students were on their way to Buffalo for a canning weekend.