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.
“He told me the endowment was new and had not been used before, but that the capsule project fit the criteria for innovative THON alumni engagement opportunities,” Yu explained. “Honestly, I didn’t know what to think. I wondered if it would be enough to cover the capsule or if it was being used for other things.”
After further discussion with Will and the Penn State Alumni Association, the DMAIG Board of Directors voted in favor of the time capsule project, therefore becoming the first THON project to receive funds from the DMAIG endowment.
With these funds, the team was able to purchase a capsule to be delivered by THON Weekend 2022, held February 18-20.
Simultaneously, Yu was coming up with a plan to collect items to put inside the capsule.
“I wanted people to have the option to send in a story along with their items to describe their significance,” he said.
The call for items was sent out to students, THON alumni, supporters, and Four Diamonds Families. By THON Weekend, Yu had received 30+ items, including photos and scrapbooks, dancer letters, THON 5K and dancer bibs, organization banners, and newspaper articles spanning from 1981 to 2022.
“I’m almost surprised people are willing to send in their items – many of them are valuable, historic, and have an emotional attachment to them,” Yu said. “This project would not be possible without the generosity of DMAIG and everyone willing to send items in.”
Items were also added to commemorate this past year, such as the THON 2022 Human Photo that spelled out the word 'Home,' and a list of the Adopt-A-Family organization pairings.
With these items inside, the capsule was installed on March 24 in the THON display wall on the concourse level of the Bryce Jordan Center (on your immediate left upon entering from Gate D) for all future visitors to see.
“My hope is that when people visit the BJC for the next THON Weekend, basketball game, or career fair, they would walk up to it and notice that THON has been going on for 50 years,” Yu said. “I hope they realize THON has a long deep-rooted history and is very much part of the Penn State experience and being a Penn State student."