As the confetti falls in the final moments of the 51st annual Penn State THON, the 46-hour dance marathon set a new fundraising record. The students raised over $15 million for Four Diamonds.

The money funds critical research into pediatric cancer and fully covers the costs of treatment for the 4,800 Four Diamonds families receiving care at Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey.

“It’s Indescribable,” said THON dancer Autumn Barber, a Penn State Harrisburg student. “{THON is so magical. This weekend is so special.”

Over 700 dancers stood the entire 46 hours from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon.

“There’s just this spirit of hope and love that pervades every single inch of the space of the Bryce Jordan Center,” said Four Diamonds Executive Director Suzanne Graney.

Not only required to stay awake for 46 hours, but to stay on your feet, dancing at THON is no small feat.

“You’re doing this for a reason,” said THON dancer Michael McDermott. “You’re standing for a for a cure for pediatric cancer. And there’s nothing more motivating to me to keep standing and keep fighting.”

THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, and requires the dedication of thousands of Penn State students throughout the year leading up to THON weekend.

“The first time I walked into the Bryce Jordan Center, I was a junior in high school and I fell in love,” said THON Merchandise Director Justin Kauffman, a Cumberland Valley alum. “I was like, This is the place I want to be, and that passion kept growing.”

The weekend features hundreds of performances designed to keep the crowd awake and engaged. Some fan favorite events were the Four Diamonds Kids Talent Show, the Penn State Athletics Pep Rally and a event-ending performance from GoGo Retro.

“You play in front of a hundred thousand [fans in Beaver Stadium], and then you’re trying to raise $100,000 for those kids, so this is a special,” said Penn State defensive tackle Dvon Ellies.

For many students, dancing at THON is a bucket list item during their four years on campus.

“This is a community of people just being selfless and really standing for the kids who we care about and the families we love,” said THON dancer Anne Newman, a Camp Hill native.

And the focus all weekend long is on those Four Diamonds families, the ones who are still battling and those that are no longer with us.

“We truly would not have made it through our sons cancer journey and ultimate death without the support of Four Diamonds,” said the Nesbitt family, who lost their son William when he was just 11 years old.

On Sunday, the event takes on a different tone during family hour as the students remember those Four Diamonds kids still fighting or recognizing their battle in a celebration of life.

“We all know why we’re here, to raise money for the kids.,” said Penn State Harrisburg adviser Holly Maitland-McKenna.

These students raised $15 million in 2023, setting a new record for THON. Now, that money will be used to fuel critical research, as well as cover the entire cost of treatment for those Four Diamonds kids at the Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey.