Putting Purpose Behind Passion
2022 DMAIG Alumni Fundraiser of the Year
While some may view a Nintendo 64 as simply a gaming device, others play with a deeper purpose.
Andrew Link, ‘15 Eng, grew up playing N64 games, from Mario Kart 64 to GoldenEye 007. In 2020, Andrew along with three friends, decided that, instead of playing for entertainment's sake, they would play to raise funds and awareness for those battling childhood cancer.
“[Me, Alex, John, and John] have diverse backgrounds and went to Penn State for different degrees, but it turns out that anyone can wake up with an idea that they are passionate about and put it into action,” Andrew said. “The Game-A-THON is proof of that.”
The Game-A-THON is a THON Nation livestream alumni engagement event where Penn State alumni play Nintendo 64 for 24 hours straight directly from the N64 console, and viewers and participants are invited to donate money for the players to perform fun tasks and challenges. Inspiration for the event name and content stems from Andrew’s involvement in the 46-hour Penn State Dance Marathon (THON™) during his time as a student in 2014 and 2015.
“In these two short years, I was able to witness the overwhelming passion for a greater cause run entirely by students. Unfortunately, this two-year tenure and involvement was not nearly enough time. I found myself wanting to do more, or give back, and wasn’t sure in which way to do so until I stumbled upon Penn State’s THON Nation alumni page, which helped make that process a lot easier,” Andrew said. “Ultimately, it is the selfless energy and effort that goes into Penn State THON year after year that truly guided me to choose Penn State THON as the beneficiary.”
Since its inception in 2020, the Game-A-THON has grown from a few local and familiar viewers to hundreds of unique viewers who tune in to the stream and participate in the full 24 hours — all For The Kids®.
“It began with us four participants wanting to share our enjoyment of the N64 with everyone else who thought it would be fun to watch us play,” Andrew said. “Our friend, Ben, has also stepped up to help support the digital art on the stream to create a sharp and sleek atmosphere for the viewers.”
After raising more than $1,400 in its first year, Game-A-THON raised upwards of $6,600 in 2021 and $7,300 in 2022.
In the spring following THON Weekend 2022, Andrew’s Game-A-THON was recognized as the DMAIG Alumni Fundraiser of the Year for the dedication, growth and success of the event.
“I was ecstatic,” Andrew said. “It was recognition that I, and the team, was not expecting at all. From being nominated to being awarded, what this means to me is proof that some ideas are meant to be invested into and shared with the world. If you have a good feeling about something, don’t just sit around and wait for anything to come to you. Go ahead and put yourself out there, talk about it and make something happen! After all, that’s how THON started in 1978.”
He continued, “The Game-A-THON is a mixture of my passion, the team's passion, and the participants' passion to ultimately serve a common goal to raise money to benefit critical research in pursuit of a cure for childhood cancer. We have learned so many lessons from creating this event and putting energy into it each year, and this award is the cherry on top. The award sits front and center on my desktop as a catalyst to keep moving it forward for years to come.”
Now Andrew’s sights are set on Game-A-THON’s goal for 2023 – raising $10,000.
Now that the team is no longer constrained to a one-bedroom apartment, they hope to host more people in-person and provide opportunities to participate in a live raffle, auctions, and prizes, and even play the games live on camera.
Andrew encourages anyone interested to follow the Game-A-THON pages for live updates and to tune into the stream.
“The overwhelming support from family, friends, coworkers and complete strangers (not strangers any more) who were inclined to participate in the overall experience has been amazing,” he said. “And on a personal note, I’ve realized the passion I have for this event, and the cause it benefits, is the main driver to continue this event year after year. This is something I look forward to and reflect upon year-round to provide a better event for the year ahead.”
Learn more and follow Game-A-THON:
In 1973, 78 students gathered in Penn State’s HUB Ballroom for 30 hours, raising $2,000+.
This year, for the 50th time in organization history, 667 dancers gathered in the Bryce Jordan Center for 46 hours, surrounded by thousands of volunteers and supporters, raising a record-breaking $13,756,374.50.
For many, it is hard to imagine a time when THON was not engrained in what it meant to be a Penn Stater.
But it was this curiosity that sparked an idea as Hong Yu Wong, THON 2022 Donor Relations Corporate Outreach Captain, was trying to think of ways to celebrate the 50th THON.
“I was watching the U.S. Open and saw an ad for Rolex,” Yu said. “Rolex is such a timeless brand, which got me thinking, ‘What else is timeless?’”
“I wanted something that would honor THON’s history and humble beginnings in a way that everyone involved in THON can be included and feel like they can contribute,” he said.
The idea: A time capsule.
But after getting initial approval, the question became: to build it or buy it?
“We found out a capsule is a hefty sum, and we wanted to put as much money towards THON and not necessarily these side projects, so we started to build it,” Yu said.
Yu and a team of Captains worked with engineering students and professors to nail down the details, from mechanics and materials to facilities for manufacturing.
“We had the materials, the people, and the plans to start building when we realized that the material we were going to use was combustible and not allowed in the Bryce Jordan Center where we wanted it to go on display,” Yu said. “At that point, it was too late to reach out to a corporate sponsor, so I thought we were at the end of the road.”
About a week later, Yu received a note from the THON 2022 Alumni Engagement Director, Will Vincent, who shared information about the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG) Endowment for THON Alumni Engagement.
“No parent should ever have to hear the words, ‘your child has cancer.’” This phrase is often used by the THON community as inspiration — igniting the passion of why more than 16,500 student volunteers dedicate countless hours every year to the cause.
Stephanie Wittig, ‘11 Bus, believed in this mission. From dancing in THON and serving on a Dancer Relations Committee, Stephanie formed relationships with Four Diamonds kids and families and made lifelong memories as a Penn State student.
But now, as a parent herself, this phrase takes on a new powerful meaning.
We are excited to announce the creation of the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG) Endowment for THON Alumni Engagement. Established with gifts from the group and matching funds from the Penn State Alumni Association, this is the first endowment of its kind, offering support to Penn State THON™ leaders every year in perpetuity.
Learn more about the endowment at the link below or join our efforts by making a gift to support the endowment here.
Held in the White Building, more than 300 couples participated in the 1980 version of THON, raising more than $86,000. Leading that charge was Overall Chair, Mike Richardson, ’81 Bus, who describes that role as “one of the proudest experiences I’ve had in my life.”
Fast forward: THON 2020 was held in the Bryce Jordan Center with more than 700 dancer couples, raising $11,696.942.38.
Returning for the first time in 40 years, Richardson was back to see it.
“As a dancer in 1979 and Overall Chair in 1980, I saw the early power of the event and the way it pulled the campus and individuals together around a common goal and effort. There was a purpose, and pride, when you were either involved or aware of THON,” Richardson said. “To see the growth and breadth of the event 40 years later only confirms what I experienced in those early years.”
Apply to DMAIG Board of Directors
Are you interested in continuing your involvement in THON?
Are you passionate about inspiring fellow alumni to take action in the fight against childhood cancer?
If so, consider applying to join the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG) Board of Directors.
DMAIG is a Penn State Alumni Association chartered Alumni Interest Group. The Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG) leads a passionate community of alumni who create and promote opportunities to raise awareness, volunteer time, and provide philanthropic support to champion the efforts of THON.
We are currently accepting applications for the Alumni Events Director, who is charged with uniting and inspiring fundraising events from THON alumni across the country and globe.
Alumni Event Relations duties include:
Visit this link to learn more and to apply. Applications are due June 14, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
With any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re so excited to announce the launch of the DMAIG Advocate Network! The DMAIG Advocate Network empowers THON alumni to build bridges in their communities, foster strong alumni connections, and create opportunities to grow support for THON across the nation.
So many of our incredible alumni do this on a daily basis, with little to no support or recognition. It is time that we encourage and empower these individuals to continue to take action in the fight against childhood cancer, beyond their four years at Penn State.
DMAIG Advocates will work in meaningful ways to raise awareness and resources to help conquer childhood cancer, and play a leadership role in engaging local alumni to actively join the fight. Below are just a few of the simple, yet effective, ways that advocates will support THON’s mission:
We’ve already begun reviewing and accepting individuals into the network. Charlie Shuman (HHD ‘18), pictured below, is excited to begin his term as a DMAIG Advocate.
"I absolutely love sharing THON’s mission with my friends, so I figured why not share that excitement with other alumni and contribute more of my ideas to DMAIG and the entire THON community?” Charlie said. "The fight against childhood cancer isn't over, and I'm honored that I can continue to support these children and families as an alumnus."
Interested in applying to continue the fight against childhood cancer? Apply here!
Curious and have more questions about the network? Email DMAIG’s Donor Relations Director, Lauren Nelson, at email@example.com.
Stephanie Galetta is a fifth year senior studying Kinesiology with a minor in Organizational Leadership. She’ll be graduating in May 2020 with her certification in Fundraising and Advancement as well.
Throughout her undergraduate career, her involvement in THON has remained steadfast. She began her THON efforts through Club Water Polo as a freshman. Growing closer and closer with Club Water Polo’s Four Diamonds Families, Steph decided that she wanted to contribute more to the organization for them and for all Four Diamonds families. As a sophomore, she made the huge leap to becoming one of Club Water Polo’s Primary Chairs -- meaning she would oversee all aspects of Club Water Polo’s THON involvement, including family interactions, fundraising efforts, and all logistics. In one year, Steph and her co-chair were able to increase Club Water Polo’s fundraising total by 48% allowing the organization to be in the Top 10 General Fundraising Organizations for THON 2018.
A Letter to the THON Alumni Community
To the THON Alumni Community,
Last week, THON, along with Penn State officials, made the decision to cancel all fundraising efforts that require traveling out of State College for the remainder of the THON 2019 fundraising window. This decision was made after careful consideration and due to 3 separate car accidents involving volunteers which occurred on fundraising trips earlier this year.
While we recognize that this will affect student fundraising efforts, student safety is of the utmost importance.
Your feedback is welcomed on this, and any other,decision affecting the THON community (email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts), but we ask you to join us in supporting the THON volunteers in their fundraising efforts, and the student leadership in making this difficult decision
This decision makes alumni support more vital than ever.
Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group leads a passionate community of alumni who create and promote opportunities to raise awareness, volunteer time, and provide philanthropic support to champion the efforts of THON.
There are various ways to support this mission, and our hope is that alumni will rally around our student volunteers to do so.
First, raise awareness. It's as simple as wearing a THON shirt or striking up a conversation with a co-worker. Use your social media channels to share messages of courage, wisdom, honesty and strength. Use your voice to garner excitement for the best weekend of the year.
Second, volunteer time. Start a fundraiser in your town. Happy hours, local sporting events and raffles are the easiest ways to kick things off. Please reach out to DMAIG (email@example.com) for tips and tricks to get this done, and register your event with THON for easy access to their logos, messaging and more.
Finally, provide support to champion the efforts of THON. Our student volunteers invest so much time and effort every single year to put on this amazing, incredible, inspiring event. When it comes to fundraising, they'll need our help now more than ever. We encourage you to join our Hope From Coast to Coast virtual run fundraiser -- but there are plenty of other ways to get the job done. Here’s just a few ways …
-Donate online at THON.org OR join THON Nation, a new fundraising platform that enables alumni, friends and supporters to create a DonorDrive fundraising page
-Become a DMAIG Ambassador (see information below)
-Use our Amazon Smiles account when you get your holiday shopping done
-Find an event with your local PSAA chapter and find a tie-in to raise funds.
-Participate in the THON Stamp Drive, and send stamps to the THON Office (227D HUB, University Park, PA 16802) – this helps to fund various initiatives while cutting down on internal costs
Need more ideas? Feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are so many different ways to encourage fundraising, and we hope you'll join us in doing so. Stay updated on these initiatives and more by checking out the DMAIG and THON social media channels.
We’re continuously inspired by our alumni volunteers, and we thank you for your continued support of DMAIG and THON.
The DMAIG Board of Director
Become a DMAIG Ambassador
NEW for THON 2019, the DMAIG Ambassador program empowers THON alumni to build bridges in their communities, fostering a strong alumni network and creating opportunities to grow support for THON across the nation. With the help of resources from DMAIG and THON, Ambassadors play a leadership role in engaging local alumni to join the fight against childhood cancer through planning fundraising events, interacting with local alumni chapters, and other outreach activities. Interested in becoming a DMAIG Ambassador for THON 2019? Visit www.dmaig.org or email Megan Osvath at email@example.com to learn more!
Join Hope From Coast to Coast
Join alumni from around the world and participate in the third annual Hope from Coast 2 Coast Virtual fun! The event takes place the week leading up to THON (Feb 10-17, 2019). Our mission is to bridge the game between THON Weekend and alumni around the world to raise awareness and funds supporting THON in the fight to conquer childhood cancer. Click here for more info and register today!
Join Our Board!
Interested in continuing to make a difference after you graduate? Want to Connect or reconnect to the cause? Join the DMAIG Board of Directors! For the 2018-2020 term we have 3 open positions, 2 Membership Directors and our Alumni Events Director! Position Descriptions can be found here and the application can be found here.
Any questions can be directed to Corbin Reno at firstname.lastname@example.org