THON weekend kicks off at Penn State

February 16, 2013 2:00:52 PM PST
Dancers on the floor, the music is on and so is THON.

"I know so many other dancers, there are so many kids running around and it's just going to be a great time," said Barbara Trunk.

The largest student run philanthropic effort in the world kicked off Friday evening at the Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's main campus.

Thousands of Penn Staters will cheer on 700 dancers who will move and shake their way through a 46 hour, no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon.

In its 41st year, THON has raised $89 million.

"I'm kind of nervous right now but kind of excited at the same time just like pumping myself up," said Gabi Kappes.

Well here's her motivation - every cancer patient at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

THON benefits the Four Diamonds Fund which gives money to cancer research and provides financial support to families like the Whiteheads of Philipsburg, Centre County.

Action News introduced you to 7-year-old Emma in December.

"This is a really big night for us to get back to THON because it's our favorite weekend of the year and we missed all of last year because we didn't know how things were going to turn out," said Thomas Whithead, father.

The second grader was diagnosed with Leukemia two years ago and was the first child to receive a new kind of gene therapy at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Today she's not only able to have a little fun at THON, she's in remission.

What is she looking forward to the most about THON weekend?

"The dancing," said Emma.

Emma's family is so grateful to be back here.

"We really didn't think we ever would see or that she would ever see another THON weekend again so this is a really meaningful weekend for us to be here with her and see her playing again," said Kari Whitehead, mother.

Hearing stories like Emma's is what will help keep these students going all weekend long.