(The Center Square) – Organizers behind Pennsylvania’s annual THON announced over the weekend they collected more than $15 million – smashing its fundraising record to cover medical bills for more than 4,000 families facing pediatric cancer.
The welcome news comes three years after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the two-day event, where more than 700 student volunteers stay on their feet at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College in culmination of a year-long effort to raise money for Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
“Above all, we are excited to provide a space for children and families impacted by childhood cancer to enjoy themselves and escape the heavy burden that childhood cancer places on their lives,” Maddie Fisher, spokeswoman for THON, told The Center Square.
After a two-year in-person hiatus, THON collected more than $13 million in 2022. Fisher said a shift to virtual fundraising tactics in 2019 helped the organization transition into a postpandemic environment.
The change in strategy followed the death of two students over a four-year span during THON’s canning drives, where volunteers patrolled intersections to collect money from drivers.
Fisher said the shift has shown “significant impact” since then. And it’s not the only prepandemic guidance that remains, she said, pointing to a recommendation to volunteers to stay home if they feel sick.
“Our illness prevention strategy this year is not just focused on COVID-19, but rather mitigating the spread of any illness that could harm an immunocompromised system, including but not limited to RSV and Influenza,” she said. “This guidance is similar to the strategy utilized before the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Since 1977, THON has raised more than $203 million to support Four Diamonds. The event attracts celebrity performances and donations, including an appearance by Natasha Benefield and a shout-out from Kim Kardashian.