It was late January 2007. I was a few months in to my time in student leadership at Penn State’s The LION 90.7fm radio station. We had just finished an exhausting audit process that I was responsible for as treasurer. I felt like we needed to lighten the atmosphere.
“We broadcast 24/7. We cover Penn State football and a half dozen other sports. Our special event broadcasts are super popular. Why not stage a live broadcast of THON for 46 hours?”
We got last minute permission from THON’s leadership to cover Penn State’s increasingly famous pediatric cancer research and family support fundraiser. I rounded up a half dozen friends and peers to cover various portions of the two day live broadcast. And we did it. It wasn’t the most remarkable broadcast, but it was the first time the station had covered THON, and we brought a lot of listeners from across the country into the experience in a personal and emotionally intimate way. In other words, we just tried to tell THON’s story.
We continued our THON broadcasts for the next two years of my term there and they continued after that. THON 2015 is wrapping up this afternoon, and I’ve listened in for a few hours this weekend. It’s been great.
Phil Schwarz was one of my friends who signed up right away to help broadcast in 2007. The next two years he and his co-hosts on the morning talk show raised something like $20,000 each year for THON and ended up becoming the radio station’s first THON dancers.
I love THON and what it represents as a commitment to the suffering in Pennsylvania and to one another as a community. What we began on something of a lark in 2007 has also been a lesson for me in starting a tradition that it’s alright to start small, even without a plan. You usually have to. But if you keep it going, it might take on a life of its own.
That’s THON’s story, too.