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Fayette campus savors THON victory

| Sunday, March 31, 2002

Four Penn State University Fayette campus students recently managed to stay awake and dance for a solid 48 hours.

The students were on a mission, dancing at Penn State University's THON in State College to support a children's cancer fund.

THON, short for the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, is held annually to raise money for children with cancer.

Each commonwealth campus raises funds for the charity and sends one couple as representatives to the big dance at University Park. Because Fayette campus won the top fund-raising award for commonwealth campuses in 2001, they were permitted to send two couples to THON 2002.

Representing Fayette were Gina Cavalcante, 2002 THON chairwoman, and her partner, Richard Merkel; and Jamie Kubicek and her partner, Carlos Rodriguez.

“This was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. The other three seemed OK the Monday after the event. I had a lot of pain in my feet and legs," Cavalcante said. "Overall, though, I'm glad I did it to help out the kids.”

The four dancers and their Penn State classmates helped the children by raising more than $37,000 for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

“We don't have our final total in yet, but we do know we surpassed the other commonwealth colleges in fund raising,” said Cavalcante.

As recognition for this achievement, the Fayette group again received the First Place Commonwealth Campus Award for fund raising.

“Fund raising is the key to this event. Some of our efforts include a mini-dance marathon at the Uniontown Mall that local high school students participated in, a penny drive, and a talent show. We also sold a THON magazine and sold ads in it. We sold THON T-shirts. The dancers also worked to raise money,” said Marlene Lytle, THON publicity coordinator.

Overall, THON 2002 raised more than $3.6 million for the Four Diamonds Fund, with all the money benefit children with cancer being treated at the medical center.

Every year, one of the sororities or fraternities at University Park receives a Penn State THON Spirit Award. Last year marked the first year an additional Spirit Award was presented to a commonwealth campus, and Fayette took it.

Fayette's THON 2002 team brought home the 2002 Spirit Award . “We swept all the categories. It was so awesome. Fayette had such wonderful support and enthusiasm. We are truly committed to this event and our dedication always pays off when we see how we are helping the kids,” said Lytle.

Penn State's THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, raising more than $17 million since 1973. The Four Diamonds Fund receives 86 percent of its funding from the THON student earned monies.

“Fayette campus has been participating in THON for the past five years. It's so wonderful to see everyone at University Park from the other campuses. We're all united and have a common goal,” said Cavalcante.

About a dozen Fayette campus students accompanied the dancers to University Park to cheer them on, keep them awake, and be their “gofers.”

“Any time one of the dancers needed Gatorade, we had to run to Wal-Mart and get it; if they needed something to eat, we had to go get it. Just as soon as one of us would get to sleep in the hotel, we would get a call to run out and get something for Gina, Richard, Jamie, or Carlos. We communicated by a walkie-talkie system,” said Brad Romesburg.

“We worked hard to keep them awake. At one point Gina was falling asleep and Richard just kept dragging her around dancing. Jamie was crying because she wanted to sleep. It was a tough job,” said Lytle.

Throughout this grueling weekend, the dancers did get brief breaks. At this time, they could receive an ice water foot bath.

“This made my feet hurt even worse, I think. My feet swelled after the ice bath. Imagine your feet being plunged into ice cold water for 15 minutes,” said Cavalcante. According to Cavalcante, some dancers did pass out when they received the ice bath.

Fayette campus will begin planning for THON 2003 in the summer and start fund raising in October. “THON is part of Fayette Campus now. We will be involved,” said Cavalcante.

However, Cavalcante said she doesn't want to be a dancer again, nor does Rodriguez or Kubicek. Merkel is the only THON veteran who said he would try to stay awake and dancing for another 48 hours.

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