Leaders of the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon announced Thursday that it would phase out canning weekends.
Canning weekend efforts, in which Penn State student volunteers travel across the Mid-Atlantic region, include soliciting donations at intersections and outside of shopping centers.
The practice, however, resulted in two car crash deaths in recent years when students drove to a canning destination or back to campus. In agreement with the university’s recommendation, Thon leaders decided to allow canning to return as part of its fundraising model, but with a plan to permanently phase it out.
“We understand that as leaders of your organization this decision may prompt questions on how your organization might operate next year and in the future, but please come to us if you need any and all assistance,” former Thon executive director Katie Mailey and the nonprofit’s current chair Austin Sommerer said in a letter to Thon volunteers. “ ... Thank you for your hard work and patience this year. Together, we’ll continue to conquer childhood cancer.”
There will be three more canning weekends, ones starting on Sept. 23 and Oct. 28 in 2016 and another in September or October of 2017.
Changes were also made to canning weekends for safety, which include e-courses that drivers must take before they can register for a canning weekend. Volunteers must also complete a safety e-course before being included on canning trips.
Thon will offer alternative transportation options for students to five areas — Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, New York City and northern New Jersey. The student-run philanthropy will also eliminate canning at intersections.
Thon noted stalled canning fundraising growth since 2012. Online fundraising to fight childhood cancer increased 32 percent in that time with canning seeing only 5 percent growth. Physical checks also increased by 19 percent in the past four years.
“This is a decision we know will require adjustment for many and we do not undervalue the positive experiences people have had with canning, but like always, we believe in the determination of our Thon community,” Mailey and Sommerer said. “While we are saddened to see one of our traditions come to an end in the next two years, we are excited to see the growth of our fundraising and student engagement efforts in other areas.”
Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli