Campus Dining staff pose while making meals during 2016 THON

Penn State Campus Dining Plays Integral Role for Supporting THON

THON weekend is fast approaching, and Penn State Campus Dining is pulling out all the stops to support the February 17-19 event--from being a large donor to providing meals for dancers.

The Penn State Dance Marathon, better known as THON, is the world's largest student-run philanthropic endeavor. It consists of a year of fundraising efforts to fight pediatric cancer and culminates in a 46-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon.

This year, 708 dancers took to the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center to take a stand against pediatric cancer.

Campus Dining plays a vital role in keeping the dancers fueled and energized through the grueling, yet awe-inspiring event. Well before THON week, nutritionists provide suggestions for meals and snacks to dancers--healthy options that will prepare them to be on their feet and on the move for 46 hours.

"We enjoy educating students on how to fuel their bodies so they can get the most out of those 46 hours," says Campus Dining nutritionist Meghan Kronenwetter. "One way to do that is to emphasize the variety of wholesome options that Campus Dining offers."

As part of the education, "THON approved" foods are tagged throughout campus convenience stores and dining commons to indicate that they are 'Dietitian-Approved for THON'.

Additionally, dancers and committee members are hosted for a pasta dinner, the Monday leading into THON. Each of the five all-you-care-to-eat dining locations around campus participate in the event.

"The pasta station is meant to help fuel the THON committee members and dancers," says Penn State Food Services Manager Jim Meinecke.

While thousands of supporters and spectators line up to enter the Bryce Jordan Center, Campus Dining provided hot chocolate from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. to ensure everyone stays warm prior to the 6 p.m. start. Thanks to an increased partnership with various Penn State athletic teams and the All-Sports Museum at Beaver Stadium hot chocolate is delivered by volunteers from the women's lacrosse, volleyball, soccer, basketball and baseball teams, among others.

In the midst of THON, Campus Dining's support grows even stronger, providing dancers with a meal - consisting of either a grilled chicken or garden salad, bananas, and wheat roll. Previously, pizza was the meal of choice, however, the change was made in response to requests for healthier options.

"I was excited to hear that the students were interested in a healthier option-even after 46 hours with no sleep!" says Kronenwetter.

Campus Dining partnered with various vendors, such as Kelloggs and Wonderful Pistachios, to donate food for THON weekend attendees. Over 250 free meals are donated for the same purpose, which can be redeemed at any dining location across campus throughout the weekend.

Following all the excitement that is THON weekend, Campus Dining hosts a complimentary meal for the dancers on Monday following the event. The 2017 dancer meal takes place on February 20.

"We work to support the dancers in whatever ways we can," says Meinecke. "It's awesome to watch our students and staff come together to work on these projects that benefit the student body as a whole."

Staff is easily identified throughout the THON festivities as well, sporting customized shirts. Special banners also help bolster the spirit of THON.

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In 1973 THON organized with the mission to eradicate childhood cancer. THON has since partnered with its sole beneficiary, Four Diamonds. Four Diamonds assists children treated at Penn State Children's Hospital and their family through care, financial support and research. Since its conception, THON has grown to include more than 16,500 student volunteers each year. In 2016, THON raised $9,770,332.32.