Fueling fundraisers

Penn State University develops program to help dance marathon participants.

Published in FSD C&U Spotlight

THON participants cheer as the final record-breaking fundraising totals are revealed. This year, THON raised over $13 million dollars to fight pediatric cancer.

For many students at Pennsylvania State University, the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon—better known as THON—is an event that requires an entire semester’s worth of energy. A yearlong fundraiser dedicated to fighting pediatric cancer, THON culminates in a 46-hour dance marathon where 733 Penn State students didn’t sit, sleep or rest—they just danced.

That level of physical exertion requires a special diet and nutrition plan, and fortunately, Penn State Food Services was there to help out. “The students who dance at THON are altering their lifestyles; they’re not sleeping or eating for an extended period of time,” says Jim Richard, associate director of residential dining at University Park. “It’s hard to do that without a little organization, and we wanted to help.”

Although students have been dancing for THON since 1973, this year’s dance marathon—which took place Feb. 21 through 23—was the first year that Penn State Food Services had a specific THON committee. According to Richard, getting involved with THON was a natural fit for Food Services’ overall mission. “It really grew out of a desire to take care of our guests,” he says. “THON is a huge part of being a Penn State student, and all students dine with us. We wanted to support them.”

Richard also says that the department wanted to help make it easy for THON volunteers to choose foods that would keep them going during the event. One of the first things the committee did was label a selection of food choices—both in the all-you-care-to-eat dining commons and the campus c-stores—as “THON Approved” so that students could readily identify the best choices to make. Vetted by Culinary Support Services, these foods were caffeine free, low in sugar and contained high amounts of quality carbohydrates to keep up the dancers’ energy reserves.

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