Penn State Brandywine students raise $20,674 to fight childhood cancer

students at THON

From left, Dana Hallahan, Julia Pagano, Alyssa Palumbo, Sara Hallahan, Jamie Glick and Patton Vo at THON 2024. 

Credit: Patton Vo

MEDIA, Pa. — For Penn State students across Pennsylvania, one year of fundraising to support children fighting pediatric cancer culminated Feb. 16-18 in a 46-hour no sleeping, no sitting dance marathon at University Park in the Bryce Jordan Center.

The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, known as THON, raised a record-breaking $16,955,683.63 for Four Diamonds, an organization at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital that covers 100% of all medical expenses related to cancer care not covered by insurance. Penn State Brandywine raised $20,674, about five times the amount of last year’s total of $3,700.

Students Alyssa Palumbo and Julia Pagano had the honor of representing the campus as dancers during THON Weekend, which included no sleeping, no sitting and a whole lot of dancing for 46 hours straight until the nearly $17 million reveal on Sunday afternoon.

Palumbo, a third-year psychology major, said she wanted to support and dance at THON to bring awareness to pediatric cancer and help find a cure so no child has to go through the pain of cancer treatment. Her younger cousin, Kaylee, was diagnosed with childhood cancer at the age of one.

“Dancing in THON was a life-changing experience for me," Palumbo said. "I was not anticipating it, but I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of during the 46 hours of no sleeping or sitting. There were times when I thought my body was going to give up on me, but the memory of why we were there pushed me along. To know that this pain could give at least one child a new chance of life and a potential cure for childhood cancer one day was more than enough to keep me going. It was a tough weekend of emotions, pain and mental hurdles, but after seeing the almost $17 million total at the end, I would do it over and over again.”

Pagano, a fourth-year communications major, said she was inspired to support and dance for THON to honor her older brother, Vinnie, who passed away from neuroblastoma, a form of pediatric cancer, at the age of five. Although she never got the chance to meet her brother, Pagano wanted to keep his memory alive.

“Participating in THON for my brother meant everything to me. There were some points throughout the weekend where I wanted to give up so bad, but when I saw the kids we were doing this event for, it really motivated me to keep going,” Pagano said. “From getting to see all the kids at THON, to not getting the chance to meet my brother after his battle with childhood cancer, it made me feel like my pain from standing for 46 hours was worth it because I contributed to the fight to find a cure. I would do the experience a million times over.”

Dana Hallahan, Brandywine’s assistant director of alumni relations and one of the advisers of Brandywine Benefitting THON, attended the event and noted how the organization’s comeback really brought the Brandywine community together.

“The return of Brandywine dancers to the Bryce Jordan Center after six years marked a truly amazing experience for the entire Brandywine community. Julia and Alyssa's remarkable stand against childhood cancer was a source of immense pride for everyone,” Hallahan said. “Supported by 13 dedicated student delegates who raised funds throughout the academic year and ensured a constant presence in the stands throughout the weekend, the event was filled with unforgettable moments. We express gratitude to all who supported the group, whether through donations, event attendance or spreading awareness of the cause. As co-advisers, Don Brennan, assistant director of residence life; Patton Vo, director of campus development; and I are thankful for the tireless efforts of the students that brought back vitality to Brandywine Benefitting THON, and we know it is here to stay!”