Keeping up the Fight for Childhood Cancer

Former Dallastown Mini-THON overall chairs share their experiences as they moved on to Penn State’s THON.


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These three Dallastown graduates have taken their experiences with Mini-THON and applied them to their work with Penn State’s THON.

The countdown to Dallastown’s 2023 Mini-THON is on with only 58 days to go! But, there wouldn’t be any Mini-THONS without Penn State’s THON.

Mini-THONs introduce students to THON. THON is a student run philanthropy helping to enhance the lives of children with cancer. Oftentimes, a student’s experience with the organization in high school influences them to further pursue their education and involvement at Penn State University. 

Dallastown Mini-THON’s past three overall chairs, Megan Dubien (‘20), Emily Dias (‘21), and Morgan O’Neill (‘22) currently attend Penn State and are involved with THON as committee members. 

While both Dallastown’s Mini-THON and Penn State’s THON raise money and awareness for the Four Diamonds Foundation and the fight against childhood cancer, there are several differences between the organizations. 

Mini-THON at Dallastown is a 12-hour overnight fundraiser, planned by student-run committees with faculty advisors. All students who attend stay standing for the duration of the event. 

“If you think your feet hurt during Mini-THON, oh boy just you wait. THON is one of the biggest student run philanthropies in the world and there is truly no experience like it,” Dias said. 

At Penn State, students choose to be on a committee or try to be selected as a dancer. THON lasts 46 hours. 

“At Penn State, it is fully student run, so if anything goes wrong, it is fully up to us to problem solve,” O’Neill said. 

All three students agree that being involved with Penn State THON  is a much greater commitment. 

“THON involves more people, its fundraising efforts are extremely committed, and the committees hold more responsibilities. Committee members are expected to, at a minimum, attend a 2-hour meeting each week,” Dubien said. 

While Dallastown Mini-THON is growing each year, THON is an essential part of campus culture at Penn State. 

Mini-THON was the best way to prepare me for THON. Through Mini-THON I learned a lot about the Four Diamonds and it helped strengthen my passion for why I THON”

— Emily Dias

“THON is integrated into almost everything at Penn State. Almost any club or organization that you join will have a THON component, and you can’t go a day without seeing a fundraiser or THON booth on campus,” O’Neill said. 

For Dubien, Dias, and O’Neill, they wouldn’t be where they are today without their experiences from Mini-THON . They each had different motivations for joining the organization. 

“My cheerleading coach at the time – Miss Gable – was very involved with Mini-THON as a faculty advisor, and knowing her through cheerleading, she encouraged me to get involved,” Dubien said.  

Attending Mini-THON as a freshman inspired Dias to get involved.  

“I knew nothing of Mini-THON going into high school,” Dias said. “I knew I wanted to give it a try and see what all the hype was about and I just remember walking into my first Mini-THON as a freshman and being instantly overwhelmed with feelings of excitement and I knew I had to become a part of Mini-THON the next year.”

For O’Neill, Penn State was in her blood. 

“I grew up in a Penn State family, so I had always known what THON was and what their mission was. So having the opportunity to get involved at a young age was something that I truly wanted to do,” O’Neill said. 

While the girls were all involved with different committees in high school, the experience gained at the high school level prepared them for the much larger THON. 

“Being a leader at DHS allowed me to gain skills in teamwork, communication, and so much more. It gave me insight into THON and allowed me to become familiar with what it takes to receive donations, work with DonorDrive, collaborate with committee members, and more,” Dubien said. 

Dias said, “Mini-THON was the best way to prepare me for THON. Through Mini-THON I learned a lot about the Four Diamonds and it helped strengthen my passion for why I THON.”

O’Neill noticed that not everyone came to Penn State with the same experience she had. 

Being involved helped O’Neill, “already come into THON with a knowledge of its purpose and what the behind the scenes sort of looks like. This is not the case for everyone as many people come to Penn State from out of state, or their high school did not have a Mini-THON,” O’Neill said. 

At Penn State, students on a committee work behind the scenes for the whole year leading up to THON, both planning and fundraising. They also work throughout the weekend to ensure the event runs smoothly. 

“As a member of the Dancer Relations Committee, I helped plan for the health, safety, and enjoyment of over 650 dancers throughout THON weekend,” Dubien said. 

O’Neill is on the Rules and Regulations committee, which is comprised of almost 600 people. 

“I will serve as an Access Specialist on THON weekend 2023. Meaning that I will be checking the “passes” of those going on and off of the floor as well as elevators and certain stair sets,” O’Neill said. 

While Dias prefers to be behind the scenes, both O’Neill and Dubien would like to be dancers in the future. 

All three girls agree that being a part of THON has enhanced their college experience.

“With Penn State being such a large school, it is so important to have these smaller groups of people that make it feel like home. It is an eye-opening experience, and every single part of THON is rewarding,” Dubien said. 

To those interested in becoming involved with THON in college, the former overall chairs cannot stress enough becoming involved with Mini-THON in high school. 

“The feeling of dancing on stage was like nothing before and the feelings of accomplishment you get from being on Mini-THON are far more rewarding than anything else,” Dias said. 

Beyond getting involved with Mini-THON, O’Neill also recommends understanding the roles of each committee, finding which works best for you, and keeping up with Penn State THON and Four Diamonds on social media. 

“I learned a lot about what goes on around the year through simply scrolling on Instagram!,” O’Neill said.

The opportunities, experiences, and leadership positions with Dallastown Mini-THON helped these three ladies become involved with THON. 

However, students not interested in Penn State University and THON should not be discouraged from joining Dallastown’s Mini-THON. 

O’Neill said that being involved with DT Mini-THON, “was such a rewarding experience, not just getting to meet and work with Dallastown’s Four Diamonds families, but to also help the school and community get involved with all of the good that Four Diamonds does.”