Lewistown native Hannon dances at THON for a cure

LEWISTOWN – Kaylyn Hannon, of Lewistown, says it is widely accepted that the best THON will be the one that doesn’t have to happen. Until then, she dances.

Hannon, a 2011 graduate of Indian Valley High School and current junior at Penn State University, will join hundreds of her peers to dance in the 2014 Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, set for Friday through Sunday at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park. The annual fundraising event, simply known as THON, benefits the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Funding supports children and families battling pediatric cancer.

According to the event website, THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Each year, fundraising efforts culminate with a 46-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon. And this year, Hannon will be among more than 700 students dancing.

Hannon will represent the Society of Women Engineers. She said the organization earned the privilege of sending two dancers to this year’s THON based on the amount of money it raised last year.

To be considered as one of the two dancers selected by SWE, Hannon participated in THON events and fundraising trips throughout the year. She earned “points” for her involvement and submitted an application to be reviewed by a committee of THON chairs, directors and past dancers.

“It’s just to show how active you are in the organization,” she said. “Since dancing is so competitive, it wouldn’t be fair to give someone a spot who didn’t really do anything to earn it.”

She didn’t hear back until around the time of final exams last fall. Hannon said she was grabbing a cup of coffee before a late night of studying when she received a call that she had been chosen to dance.

“I literally started jumping up and down and crying in the middle of Starbucks,” she recalled. “It was an amazing feeling!”

Hannon said she will be dancing in honor of two families paired with SWE: The family of Aidan Roth, a 19-year-old who is now cancer-free, and the family of Jhonen Sullivan, a 5-year-old fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She said she also will dance for her boyfriend, Rob DelFranco, who also is currently battling ALL.

“While standing for 46 hours straight will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever do, it’s nothing compared to what these families have gone through,” she said.

In preparation for the event, Hannon said she has been working out at the gym and eating as healthy as possible. She broke what she described as a “pretty serious caffeine addiction” and bought new sneakers to keep her on her feet.

“There are no words that can truly describe what it feels like to walk into the BJC during THON weekend,” Hannon said.

She said she is looking forward to seeing the participating kids and familes and bringing smiles to their faces.

“I can’t wait to make a million amazing memories,” she said.

Since 1977, THON has raised more than $101 million to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund, the website states. THON raised $12.3 million in 2013 alone.

At the culmination of the 2014 dance marathon, the final fundraising total for the year will be revealed. Donors may continue to contribute to the philanthropy this week by visiting www.thon.org. Click “Donate Now” in the top navigation bar. From there, donors may choose whether to donate to the general fund or credit a particular organization or dancer.

To donate to SWE and support Hannon’s efforts, select “Click to support the THON organization or dancer of your choice” and choose the Society of Women Engineers from the pop-up menu.

The event is open to the public throughout the weekend.