In my experience as a Penn Stater, as both a student and as an alum, I have found THON to be a very polarizing event.
On one-hand, you have student philanthropists who spend all of their free time fighting for every cent they can get in the name of curing cancer. Although I may have found them a bit too intense for my taste, I admired these students. They are what THON and Penn State is all about.
On the other-hand, though, you have loads of kids in clubs, or in Greek life, who in my opinion are doing it just to do it; perhaps to feel good about themselves, to impress their friends and family, or for the t-shirts/sweatshirts.
There was always something about these kids (maybe the meat head frat boy hungover on a Saturday morning outside of "the house" smoking a cigarette in an FTK shirt with Greek letters on it; or the orange from fake tanning sorority girl, throat raspy from shouting at the bar and chain smoking all weekend bragging about her role in THON) that made me wonder: "is this really for the kids?"
However, in hindsight, and especially in the context of the recent Sandusky scandal (refered to herein as "The Thing"), attempts to marginalize or question the spirit of THON is what makes Penn State so special.
Those of you who took the time to read this are probably wondering "what the f**k is this kid talking about?" Well, this is what I'm talking about.
Anywhere else, at any other flagship university, any other large state run institution, THON would be heralded by outsiders looking in, in addition to all of the insiders. Surely the magnitude of raising tens of millions of dollars year over year, never ceasing to beat the prior year's total would send shock waves through the entire American higher education system.
Not at Penn State, though. At Penn State this is normal. This is what we're about. This is the example set by the generations of alumni before us; even by the football coach! It is so ingrained in us as Penn Staters that people like me (and many others, my sentiment is shared by many) feel inclined to question the efforts of a large segment of those involved.
The fact that these kids are taking time to participate in THON at all is an afterthought. Charity, philanthropy, and teamwork in the name of all things good is an afterthought at Penn State.
And now, after "The Thing," people are trying to paint Penn Staters with one brush: football crazed, cultist individuals who don't understand how the modern world works, so disconnected from the reality of the atrocities that surround them that they'd take to the streets in support of a monster who blindly turned his back to monstrous acts.
In reality, though, We Are THON. THON is Penn State. Penn State is bigger than the actions of one-man, or the inaction of a few. And we should proudly support THON this year more than ever, because it is the best defense for any Penn Stater who is being painted with that one brush; even those who I so terribly misjudged in the past.