Two Midstate students leading the way for Penn State’s THON


(WHTM) — Penn State’s annual dance marathon known as THON has raised a staggering amount of money to fight childhood cancer. This year, two Midstate natives are helping THON evolve.

Kate Colgan and Justin Kauffman grew up in the Midstate. “It truly has been something that’s been a huge part of my life since I was a little kid growing up in this area,” Colgan said. “I went to CVHS and we had a big mini-thon, so I got involved with that as a freshman,” Kauffman said.

They also grew up hearing about Penn State’s legendary THON. “Coming to Penn State for my first THON weekend I was just like, this is the place I want to be,” Kauffman said. So when they arrived in State College, “It was kind of a no-brainer, I love this organization so much and I wanted to continue giving back to it,” Colgan said. They jumped right in.

Kate, from Dillsburg, is THON’s Executive Director. “It’s incredible and it’s crazy,” Colgan said. Justin, from Mechanicsburg, its Merchandise Director. “Finding a passion in this organization also connecting back to my major is awesome, so I actually get to have a hands-on experience it,” Kauffman said.

Their experience has been one of a kind, taking the helm as Penn State and the world, still grapple with the pandemic. “Curveball is a great way to put it, we were not expecting that, we were not expecting to have an entirely virtual THON weekend, but we learned so much from it,” Colgan said.

But, as so many leaders have done, they’ve found the good and ran with it. “Everything was always changing but it opened up so many doors, and I love how this year we can use what we learned from that online perspective to combine the two in a hybrid format,” Kauffman said.

“We learned how to engage people outside of State College, that had never really been a priority for us before, we were focused on holding these in-person events and if you could make it great, if not, we’ll see you next year,” Colgan said.

THON 2022 is in February, at least the dance marathon itself is. The fundraising effort is already in full swing, kicking off with Ignite the Fight, a social media-driven campaign to raise awareness and collect donations all year long. It’s another positive byproduct of the pandemic.

“Ignite the fight is a really perfect example of that, of something we’ve never tried before but that we’re so excited about, but that we’ve put all of our effort into and behind,” Colgan said.

Kate and Justin and the rest of the directors don’t set monetary goals for THON. Instead, they focus on what they can control, and work as hard as they can for every dime.

“One of our sayings that we have is that we don’t have 10 $1million donors, we have 10 million $1 donors,” Colgan said. “The smallest things can make a huge difference in the lives of children and families fighting childhood cancer,”

THON weekend 2022 is set for February 18,19 and 20. It’s too soon to tell exactly what THON will look like this time around, but last year’s all-virtual THON weekend didn’t miss a beat, raising more than $10.6 million.

For more on THON and how you can help, visit the link here.

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