Penn State basketball coach Patrick Chambers had to leave campus for a road game, but he had a big check to drop off first.
THON, the annual dance marathon fundraiser for pediatric cancer research, means so much to the Nittany Lions coach that he dropped off a $14,200 check before the grueling event even started Friday evening.
Forty-six straight hours of grooving, line-dancing and two-stepping for more than 700 dancers finally ends at 4 p.m. Sunday. The fundraiser, officially the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, is billed as the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
Chambers and his team couldn't attend this year because the Nittany Lions were leaving Friday night for a game Sunday at Michigan. But he did promise to donate $10 for every student who attended Thursday night's home game, a 74-72 loss to Iowa. The game drew 1,420 students.
The coach said he and his wife, Courtney, wanted to make a "powerful statement."
"THON has just blown me away, it's a phenomenal event," Chamber said. "We are very fortunate to have three young children and they are all healthy, so I'm very lucky."
THON has raised more than $89 million over almost three dozen years for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. The event took in a record $10.68 million last year alone.
About 4,000 volunteers are involved with putting on the show at the Bryce Jordan Center, transforming the home court of the Nittany Lions into a sprawling dance floor. A total of 15,000 volunteers are involved in year-round fundraising efforts.
The buildup culminates with an emotional THON weekend, which draws cancer survivors, patients and their families. Hours before the music was to start Friday, THON overall chairman Will Martin said preparations were proceeding on schedule while student volunteers in T-shirts and shorts hurriedly pieced together sets, lighting and speakers.
Chambers, who shaved his head in support of THON in another fundraising effort, spoke at the event last year. Even though he's comfortable on the arena floor, he's in his second year as Nittany Lions head coach, the moment was overwhelming.
"I was nervous last year when I looked up and looked around. That was powerful to me, for me. I'm sure it was for my team. That's stuck with me since."
Former assistant football coach Jay Paterno, the son of the late former coach Joe Paterno, and current football coach Bill O'Brien are among the expected speakers at this year's dance marathon.