Students in uniforms of bright T-shirts, tutus and fanny packs embarked on a twelve hour dance celebration to raise awareness and funds for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. On Saturday, Nov. 7, Temple students met on the dance floor at Mitten Hall for its third annual HootaThon. Despite the wearing twelve hours that these dancers faced, it was easy to see that the energy of the event was preserving their spirits.
“It’s all really positive, you can tell,” said Jennifer Foti, a sophomore sociology major dancing through the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority. “People who don’t even know each other are going up to each other and dancing, talking. It’s all really positive and supportive and everyone wants to be a part of it.”
All of the hard work and positivity paid off at the big reveal. This yearlong effort culminated to raising $280,620.76 for CHOP.
This is an incredible accomplishment by a student-run philanthropy. It is almost unbelievable that an event like a dance marathon could make such a difference in the lives of children and their families. However, this is not the only, nor the first college to achieve such success through a dance marathon.
The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, THON, is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. It is also the earliest college fundraiser of its kind, beginning in1977. THON has been an intrinsic factor of Penn State’s identity since its conception. This begs the question, did Temple’s HootaThon steal its concept from their rival Penn State? Penn State student Natalie Jara, a member of the THON organization Operation Blue and Gold, believes that the similarities aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say Temple is copying Penn State because that kind of wording usually has a negative connotation,” Jara said. “It’s great to see two schools with the similar mindset of helping others in need and putting someone else above yourself.”
Although some are quick to accuse this event of being unoriginal, one must take into account just how many dance marathons that Penn State’s THON has inspired.
“We’re a part of the Miracle Network Dance Marathon Movement,” said Ally Knepper, HootaThon’s Executive Chair for Student Outreach. “We are a part of over 300 dance marathons across the nation.”
These dance marathons are given by colleges and even high schools all across the country. These events are various sizes and times but they all have one thing in common: dancing for the kids (FTK).
In fact, Gaelen McCartney, the founder of HootaThon, was inspired by BuckeyeThon, Ohio State University’s Dance Marathon. Clearly, these dance marathons are incredibly widespread. Philanthropy and charity has become common among college students.
“I think we’re at an age where we can think ahead,” said sophomore HootaThon dancer Mary Kate Foley. “And this is finally our chance. We’re independent now and we can give back and take on leadership roles.”
“It gives people a sense of belonging when you can help somebody that isn’t yourself it’s a really good sense of empowerment…” Knepper said. “I feel like that’s why college students get involved in the first place. It gives themselves a sense of belonging but also it gives them a reason to keep going and keep striving towards a goal because you realize what you can do when you put your mind to it.”
So is Temple stealing a part of Penn State’s identity? It’s safe to say that Penn State’s THON has inspired many schools to take up this tradition. But, if Temple is appropriating any part of another college’s culture, there are a lot worse things than adopting an aspect that raises money to benefit kids fighting illness.
It’s a better idea to think of Penn State’s THON as an idealistic model of an amazing university tradition as opposed to something that other schools copy. HootaThon’s leaders even hope that HootaThon will achieve the same importance to Temple’s identity as THON is to Penn State’s identity.
“It has grown tremendously. The first dance marathon was nothing compared to this. I can see it really growing on Temple’s campus and becoming one of those household names,” Knepper said. “I want to come back as an alum and see HootaThon everywhere and have everybody so excited about it because it really is something that is so special and it really does unite everybody.”