Penn State

Penn State Thon is weeks away. Will new restrictions affect the fundraising total?

And the total amount raised for Thon 2018 is...

Penn State Thon reveals the total amount raised for 2018 Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018 at the Bryce Jordan Center.
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Penn State Thon reveals the total amount raised for 2018 Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Thon weekend is right around the corner, but this year’s dance marathon will be a little different, with recent changes to how students involved in the philanthropic event can raise money for children’s cancer research.

The annual 46-hour dance marathon provides support and funding for children’s cancer research as well as patients in partnership with Four Diamonds, an organization that provides aid for families at Penn State Children’s Hospital. Thon has raised more than $150 million and helped more than 4,000 Four Diamonds families since its inception in 1973.

In the past, “canning,” where students would go onto busy street corners and ask cars for donations, was one of the main sources of donations.

The organization phased that method out in 2016 after two car crash deaths when students drove to a canning destination or back to campus.

This year, Thon’s safety committee took an additional step to ensure the safety of Penn State students, enforcing a travel limitation for its fundraisers for the Thon 2019 year.

Now, students are not permitted to travel more than 15 miles from campus — specifically from Old Main — to hold fundraising events or drives, according to Jess Tyrell, Thon’s Fundraising Safety Director.

The restriction is also enforced at all 24 of Penn State’s branch campuses, the rule there being no more than 15 miles outside the official address of the specific campuses, as well as the same distance from a potential commuter student’s place of residence.

Any money made from fundraisers outside the restricted area will not be counted, according to Tyrell.

Students are allowed, however, to register and hold fundraisers outside this radius during university administered breaks.

“Ever since the cancellation of canning in 2016, it’s been a continued discussion, just about how to keep our volunteers safe,” said Maddy Hughes, public relations director for Thon. “Canceling all the travel for this year was sort of the best solution to make sure all our members were safe.”

The first dance of the canning cancelation in 2016 saw approximately $3.2 million less in total donations — from $13 million to $9.8 million. In 2017, the total swung back up to $10.05 million, and the total last year was $10.15 million.

Hughes said the organization doesn’t predict or project potential totals for each year’s dance weekend.

“I can’t say whether or not it will exactly affect the total,” Hughes said. “Either way, we’re confident we’ll still be able to fulfill our mission.”

According to Thon’s website, gifts from individuals remain the largest source of funds for the organization. That includes not only canister donation, but Lion Line, online donations, senior class gifts, text giving and personal checks.

In 2016, Thon officials told the CDT that canning fundraising growth had stalled since 2012. Online fundraising to fight childhood cancer increased 32 percent in that time with canning seeing only 5 percent growth, and physical checks also increased by 19 percent.

Other sources of donations include corporate, foundation and small business gifts, fundraising events including the Thon 5K and profits from the sale of Thon merchandise.

Thon weekend kicks off on Feb. 15 and runs until Feb. 17 at the Bryce Jordan Center. For more information and to donate to this year’s event, visit