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Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change by Derrick Feldmann

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Chapter 9Creating a Movement…Bringing 15,000 College Students Together on One Campus

Movement Builder: THON Volunteers

THON, Pennsylvania State University

In 1973, the fraternity and sorority community on Pennsylvania State University's campus came together to dance all night for some worthy causes. Although the opportunity at the time was focused on one or two potential causes, it became apparent that the campus community was on to something. Little did the group of Greek members realize that they created what would be today deemed the largest student philanthropy on college campuses. Today, what is now called THON (short for Dance Marathon) has raised more than $127 million for pediatric cancer research at Hershey Medical Center since 1977, more than $13 million each year, by bringing together more than 15,000 student volunteers from more than 400 organizations and clubs on campus.

So how does this event become a force for so many Millennials on campus to give up their weekends and evenings to raise support and awareness through THON? The answer is simple—dedication, leadership, and highly organized operations at the top. Here's more insight into the model and its journey to becoming one of the most coveted do-good events on a United States college campus.

At the heart of the THON program is the student volunteer. Each year, more than 15,000 students come together to raise money to support the mission of THON—finding a cure for cancer affecting children. These volunteers are ...

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