Penn State's THON fundraiser hurt by molestation scandal, superstorm
Battered by a hurricane on the East Coast and a child sex abuse scandal that drew national attention for months, the annual THON at Penn State University might have a harder time raising money this year to fight childhood cancer, some students say.
“We're actually not doing well this year,” said Justin Horvath, 20, a junior from Clinton, N.J., who sought donations on Sunday in Monroeville. “Not bad, but not as good.”
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced last month to 30 to 60 years in prison for child sex abuse, some of which took place on campus. A grand jury indicted three former Penn State administrators — fired President Graham Spanier, retired Vice President Gary Schultz and suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley — on charges of trying to cover up the scandal. The board fired icon Joe Paterno as head football coach, and he died in January at 85.
Horvath and a half dozen other students from Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and Alpha Chi Omega sorority strolled down William Penn Highway on Sunday at the entrance to Miracle Mile Shopping Center. The students, wearing posters that read “Help Kids Fight Cancer,” jangled coffee cans and shouted for donations.
Some drivers and passengers lowered their windows and dropped bills or change into the jar.
Melissa Milanak, a teacher at Saltsburg High School, donated a couple of dollars.
“I teach kids who went to Penn State who did the THON,” she said.
Sophie, 12, of Plum donated $1. Her mother went to Penn State, and she would like to follow suit.
“It's for kids' cancer. It's a good cause,” said her father, Eric, who declined to give their last name.
Most motorists, including a man wearing Penn State gear in a black car with Nittany Lion seatbacks, simply drove away.
“We come out every weekend, every year, and it's upsetting that a lot of people don't even give us spare change,” said Jane Moreland, 20, a junior from Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County. “They look at us funny.
“I think it's a misconception we want fives and tens,” she continued. “We'd be happy with spare change.”
This marks the third of three canning trips by Penn State students at busy intersections. The students fan out from Massachusetts to Virginia to raise money. Student groups also hold their own fundraisers and get corporate sponsorships. The event culminates in a dance marathon, called THON, Feb. 15-17 at Penn State.
The students raised a record $10,686,924 last year, helped in part when the Paterno family urged mourners to give to THON in lieu of sending flowers.
This year, though, students face a different climate.
A report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, which was released in July, implicated Paterno in helping conceal Sandusky's activities from the community, authorities and the university board.
A hurricane struck the East Coast, damaging power lines and canceling some THON fundraising trips.
Moreland and other fundraisers said rude comments from motorists have been scarce, but some have asked if the money goes to Sandusky or the university. The money benefits The Four Diamonds Cancer Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.
Ben Kamens, 21, a junior from Bala Cynwyd in Montgomery County, blamed the hurricane for diverting donations that might have gone to THON.
He said he is sorry about the child abuse tragedy.
“We're all here to show Penn State is more than football and more than a party school,” Kamens said. “We care about kids.”
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Steelers should corner the market at NFL Draft
- Most talent in NFL Draft play at Steelers’ positions of need
- Man found dead in Lower Burrell
- Former Tennessee DE Hendrix announces transfer to Pitt
- Plum officials: District won’t inhibit ‘constitutionally protected speech’
- Grand jury presentment: AG Kane lied, attempted to cover up leak
- Hammel, Cubs shut down Pirates, snapping 5-game winning streak
- Steelers receiver Brown attends workouts despite previous comments
- Allegheny County Controller Wagner claims rival Flaherty benefits from ‘dark money’
- Hog Father’s eatery chain ferries barbecue to workers at gas well pads
- Gun stolen from Fayette courthouse, used in suicide