Love Belongs Here–Valentines and THON

“Love Belongs Here.”  That is what Valentine’s Day means to many of us.

That was the theme for THON 2010 where I danced as a Penn State THON alum.  Do you actually “dance” for the entire 46 hours you are awake?  No; just standing on your feet is the only requirement.  Most of the time, dancers do just shuffle around, looking for something to do, games to play, people to talk with.  It’s boring.  After about 6 hours or so (I don’t know exactly as you’re not permitted to wear a watch), the novelty wears off and you realize you’re settling into the marathon part of THON.

Entertainment today is more sophisticated than when I danced as an undergrad.  In 2010, we played Life-Size Jenga; our team either won or came in second place, it was hard to tell.   Color Wars pit yellow against red against blue against green in random activities.   Live bands play.  The DJ from 1991, Larry Moore, still spins the tunes.  The football, gymnastics and volleyball teams compete in a talent contest.  They sing, dance, rap, cheer, flip and roll, perform a skit, play instruments or any combination of those.  The Blue Band plays from the stands, much like at football games in their special section. 

You wear funny hats.  That hasn’t changed.  You are thrilled by glow wristbands, whistles and stickers.  Toy cars become the best toy ever invented.  Mardi Gras beads are a coveted treasure.  Beach balls soar across the entire floor.  Someone usually keeps hitting the ball around in the air.  Conga lines are fascinating and exciting.  Blowing bubbles will entertain you for hours.  Every moraler carries tennis balls so you can massage your feet with them. 

When the smell of stale socks and baby powder gets to be too much, there is The Walk.  As an undergrad, this was a scheduled stroll down two or three hallways decorated with pep-talk signs and posters from our Moraler.  In 2010, there was a maze of activities.  Four Diamonds families had poster-size scrapbook pages filled with photos, quotes and favorite activities and games.
The theme was “Walking through the pages of our childhood” and you walked down hallways  decorated with wall-size posters of Winnie-the-Pooh and Buzz Lightyear.   Where the Wild Things Are.  Berestein Bears.  There were cutouts to stick your head through for a photo opp.    Moralers stood around in cardboard costumes of cereal boxes renamed “Special FTK”.  Perhaps the exit display said it best: The Little Engine That Could.  “I think I can…I think I can…I think I can.”

You learn that deodorant does nothing for the smell, but that and a change of clothes is like starting anew.

The initials “FTK” surround you.  FTK stands for “For The Kids,” because that is why we dance.  The kids are our motivation.  They put on a “fashion show” walking down the stage runway parading in their best blue-and-white apparel.  They roam freely around the dance floor and will play catch, water gun battle, jungle gym under the stage or hide-n-seek with you.  To see these kids who are often tired or in pain running around and laughing, well…there is not one parental reprimand this weekend.  We are throwing this party for them!

Every dancer who commits to THON knows that any soreness or tension he or she feels is temporary, while the pain a child with cancer endures is long-lasting.  We do it to show support.  We cannot take away their pain, but we can do something about it to lessen the burden, even just for a little while.

This Valentine’s Day, show someone a little love.

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