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Penn State Berks to Send Four Dancers to THON 2024, Host Send-Off Week

by Penn State Berks

Feb 08, 2024

From left to right: Mariem Hanna, Manali Desai, Sydney Bankert, and Samantha Hagenbush. Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Cullen

Penn State Berks is showing support for the four student dancers who are representing the college at THON, the dance marathon to benefit families battling pediatric cancer. There will be a dancer send-off from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, in Multipurpose Room 2, located on the second floor of the Perkins Student Center, where faculty, staff, and fellow students will gather to wish the dancers well.

From Friday, Feb. 16, to Sunday, Feb. 18, Penn State students from every campus will gather at the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State’s University Park campus for THON, the 46-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon to benefit Four Diamonds, which supports families battling pediatric cancer. This year’s theme is “Treasure Every Adventure.”

This year’s dancers from Berks include seniors Sydney Bankert and Samantha Hagenbush, both kinesiology majors, and sophomores Manali Desai, finance major, and Mariem Hanna, civil engineering major.

Each dancer had their reasons for joining Berks Benefitting THON and wanting to dance in this year’s event.

Bankert, fundraising executive for Berks Benefitting THON, said, “I THON because my mom is a childhood cancer survivor. She’s the reason I got involved in THON in the first place.” She added that getting to know the organization’s THON families increased her motivation.

For Hagenbush, donor and alumni relations co-executive for Berks Benefitting THON, last year’s recap video moved and motivated her to make an impact and join the organization.

Desai, marketing executive for Berks Benefitting THON, said hearing their THON families’ stories inspired her to dance in THON this year, and that she is grateful to represent and support the families as a dancer.

“Being a part of THON has already shaped me in terms of showing compassion and being kind. Not only do I have compassion for people with cancer, but now I can do something about it,” Desai said.

Hanna, family relations executive for Berks Benefitting THON, echoed that she was also motivated by her experience with her high school’s mini-THON and the THON families to dance this year.

Throughout the year, Berks Benefitting hosts various fundraisers, including Cuts for Kids, Pie in the Face, and the Inspire the Night benefit dinner, which raised $16,922 this year. When asked which fundraiser was their favorite, all four dancers agreed on Pie in the Face because of how it brings the campus together.

“Those little interactions with students, faculty, and staff who may not know what THON is, and getting to share a glimpse of what we do and some of our THON families’ stories is really inspirational,” Hagenbush said.

As for THON Weekend, the four dancers also agreed that they’re looking forward to interacting with their THON families and seeing their hard work pay off in the total fundraising reveal.

“I’m excited to see other fellow dancers,” Hanna added. “We’re all here for one cause, and it’s for the kids. I’m hoping to meet people, find out more about them, and learn why they THON.”

The opportunity to represent Penn State Berks is not lost on them either.

“It’s a great opportunity to represent Berks. We’re only allowed to send four dancers to THON, so being one of the four is really special,” Bankert said. “I love this campus and this school, and it means so much to me to be able to fight for a cause that I’m passionate about with people that I’m really close with.”

In 2023, THON raised a record $15,006,132. Penn State Berks raised $36,287, earning seventh place among the Commonwealth Campuses for THON fundraising.

In 1977, the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, known as THON, established its relationship with the Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Four Diamonds directly assists the families at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital while funding research in pursuit of a cure. To date, THON has contributed more than $190 million to support children and their families fighting pediatric cancer. Every year, more than 16,000 student volunteers devote their time and effort to raise money through fundraising events. The hard work of every volunteer culminates every February during THON weekend for a 46-hour dance marathon celebration in the Bryce Jordan Center at University Park. Berks Benefiting THON, a Penn State Berks student organization, works collaboratively with THON at Penn State University Park to raise funds and spread awareness of pediatric cancer.

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