Dance Marathon Event Raises $15 Million for Childhood Cancer

Skift Take

A unique dance marathon event raised a record $15 million for childhood cancer. The annual event is run by more than 16,500 Penn State student volunteers since 1973 and it has raised $203 million that helped more than 4,800 families to date.

The 46-hour no sleeping or sitting dance marathon is the culmination of THON‘s yearly fundraising efforts. A grand total of $15,006,132.46 was revealed on Sunday as the highest-ever annual total raised.

The theme of THON 2023 was “Foster the Magic,” and it marked the 51st year of fundraising. More than 707 dancers participated in the organization’s iconic dance marathon that began at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17 and ran nonstop through till 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19.

Every year families of survivors and children who have passed share emotional stories from the stage in the final hours of the dance marathon. This emotional outpour pushes many participants over the line.

THON is the world’s largest student-run philanthropy, run by over 16,500 Penn State student volunteers. It has raised over $203 million to support its sole beneficiary, Four Diamonds at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. THON and Four Diamonds have helped over 4,800 families by covering 100 percent of medical bills and comprehensive specialty care services.

Throughout the weekend, pop singer Natasha Bedingfield and DJ Whethan made surprise performances. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and UFC fighter Bo Nickal also made surprise cameos on stage at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Several other fundraising events run throughout the year, including K-12 student led Mini-THONs, hair donations and 5k runs, all leading up to the THON weekend. The first Penn State Dance Marathon was held in 1973 after former Interfraternity Council President Bill Lear proposed a dance marathon to raise money for a worthwhile cause. 78 dancers participated in the first edition, raising over $2,000. In 1983 the event hit six figures, and it crossed the $1 million mark in 1992.

The event also pioneered live video access in 1998. Last year the live stream had more than 180,000 unique views last year.

THON is committed to helping children and families impacted by childhood cancer by delivering financial and emotional aid year-round. It also supports the extensive cancer research program at Penn State College of Medicine.

Photo credit: Total funds raised revealed on stage at THON 2023 /