Penn State

The beat goes on: Thon families, students dance, celebrate for a greater cause

UNIVERSITY PARK — The energy never died Saturday as the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon continued to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer.

Jay Paterno took the Bryce Jordan Center stage Saturday and spoke before more than 15,000 people, bringing some to tears and leaving the rest chanting, “We are ... Penn State.”

Paterno also spoke last year at Thon just weeks after his father passed.

“It means the world to me to be here. I’ve been a part of this since I was a kid, and it’s one of the most inspiring and incredible events there is. I only regret that I never danced as a student,” Paterno told the CDT. “My dad was here four years ago and said Thon is exactly what Penn State is. Speaking on his behalf, I know Thon, and the fact that this university is part of it, never made him more proud.”

And being proud seemed to be the theme Saturday as Penn state student volunteers and Four Diamonds Fund families said there is nothing they’d rather be a part of than Thon.

“You work all year on something that impacts so many. It makes us all proud,” said junior Eddy Barringer, who is a part of a special events committee.

“You can’t really describe what it means,” added freshman Paige Deverts, a moraler for the event. “You read about it and see it on TV, but experiencing such a great event is the most rewarding part because you’re about to help so many families and be a part of something so big.”

Deverts’ role was to keep people motivated throughout the day and set up foot rubs for those dancing.

“You don’t want anyone wearing out,” she said. “We still have a long ways ahead of us.”

The 46-hour dance marathon started Friday night and ends Sunday afternoon.

The Kratzer family, of Harrisburg, was in attendance Saturday for their 4-year-old son, Collin, who is suffering from a brain tumor.

“It’s really amazing,” Jennifer Kratzer said. “It’s been a long couple years, but this lightens the mood and brings out a little positive in things.”

Bill and Jennifer Kratzer said Collin was diagnosed with high risk metastatic medulloblastoma — a brain tumor that had spread to his spine — in April 2010. Since then, he has had brain surgery, high dose chemo, an autologous stem-cell rescue, maintenance chemo, a phase II trial, more chemo, and radiation to his brain and spine. The couple said their son has relapsed twice, but is fighting with “such strength and courage, we have more recently dubbed him ‘Collin Courageous.’ ”

“It nice that a hospital like Hershey is so close to us,” Jennifer Kratzer said. “This is our third Thon and everyone has been so helpful, welcoming, and Thon is just such a positive experience.”

The day’s events included performances by several bands including My Hero Zero, Public Domain, 7 Hump Wump and Pistol Ped, which were introduced by Four Diamonds children.

There was also a fashion show that put the spotlight on Four Diamonds children. The kids, wearing Penn State gear, took the stage to cheers from the crowd after they were introduced by student volunteers.

Last year, Thon participants raised more than $10 million for the Four Diamonds Fund — a charitable organization based out of the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center that supports pediatric cancer patients and their families.

Paterno said the goal this year is to raise $11 million. That figure would put the fundraiser over the $100 million mark for all-time donations.

“There is no doubt in my mind this can be achieved,” he said. “When Penn State is given a goal, they don’t just make it, they surpass it.”

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @brmilazzo.

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