The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon executive committee faced a number of difficult situations in the past year, including the death of a student volunteer during a canning trip and reports from others about forced fundraising.
Those resulted in the cancellation of Thon’s remaining canning trips and student leaders of the group denouncing peer pressure to volunteer.
Thon also addressed another issue recently — who can be on the floor in the final hours of its dance marathon. Their solution was to set a limit on, but not reduce, the number of Thon family floor passes, which caused an outpouring of social media backlash that alleged the student-run philanthropy was getting away from its stated mission of participating in Thon for the kids.
The resolution, Thon spokeswoman Lily Beatty said, was not easy. It was also misunderstood by some people who thought Thon decreased the number of available family floor passes in the final hours.
“This is a decision that is dictated by the limits of the building space we have, (like) fire code, regulations, etc.,” Beatty said. “We want the Bryce Jordan Center to be a safe and sustainable home for many years. We are also not reducing the number of family passes available. There will not be less family passes available than there have been in Thon 2015 or Thon 2016.”
The student-run philanthropy is faced with its own growth.
There have been 64 new families added to Thon since 2014, according to Beatty.
“We have severely reduced passes for every stakeholder on the floor since 2013, which have also been difficult decisions that were met with resistance at the time,” Beatty said. “ ... Since 2014, we reduced the number of captains and committee members by roughly 75 percent, other decisions affecting other stakeholders that were met with some resistance. In terms of working volunteers we can’t reduce that number more without compromising the logistics of the event.”
This plan was a difficult decision, but was necessary in order to keep the floor safe for all, including dancers and families.
Thon spokeswoman Lily Beatty
She also said there is a “common misconception that every dancer has someone from their organization on the floor with them during that time, but that is not the case. There are a limited number of passes available to students, and even if we were to eliminate those completely there is still not enough space to accommodate all families on the floor as we have in the past, since every year the number of families seeking passes grows.”
The changes to family floor passes will only be in effect after 8 a.m. Sunday during Thon weekend.
Families that opt in for family floor passes for the dance marathon were divided into three groups based on Penn State Children’s Hospital patient statues.
The first group, active treatment families, get their status if their child is on active treatment as of Jan. 6, 2017 or if they are new to Thon and will receive one pass per immediate family member for the entirety of the dance marathon.
The second group, bereaved families, will receive as many as three passes, which can be interchanged between family members.
Off-treatment families make the third group and will be affected the most by the changes. The number of passes off-treatment families receive will depend on passes distributed to active treatment and bereaved families. If an off-treatment family opts in for floor passes for two consecutive years and does not receive any, they will automatically be selected for passes upon opting in for a third consecutive year.
“This plan was a difficult decision, but was necessary in order to keep the floor safe for all, including dancers and families,” Beatty said. “Thon is growing and the number of families we are serving is growing. This plan allows for new families to enjoy Thon weekend in a similar way that other families have before them.”