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February 24, 2013

Local grad adds to THON’s success

— Of the 16,000 red, sweaty faces bobbing and weaving at this year’s record-breaking THON, the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon hosted at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center, one might be familiar to Johnstowners.

Chris Kessler, a Westmont Hilltop grad, proudly held up one of the number “4” signs during THON’s big donation reveal. More than $12.3 million was raised at the 2013 event – $2 million more than last year’s total, which was also a new record.

Kessler, a senior majoring in information sciences and technology, was the THON 2013 overall technology chairman and has been involved with the annual fundraiser since his freshman year. This year, he led a team of 20 committee captains, responsible for all technical aspects of the event, including the website, the THON Informational Network (THINK), the THON app and the pass system that allowed participants into the center.

“We basically do anything involved with technology for THON,” he said. “We work on creating a system that provides access to the event level floor, so we’re making sure we’re at capacity levels.”

And they reached capacity by 9 a.m. Sunday, according to The Associated Press.

Each year, THON seems to metastasize. Since the first THON in 1973, more than $100 million has been raised for the Four Diamonds Fund, to combat pediatric cancer.

“It was a big attendance,” he said. “The arena was really electric in that time (before the big reveal). Everyone’s there for one cause, and it’s really great to see all the students, volunteers and donors showing up and getting invested in what we’re doing.”

Of course, they also showed up to dance, and the music didn’t stop. Aside from the bass drops, strobes and fever-pitch scene at the Bryce Jordan Center, Kessler said there’s plenty else he finds invigorating about THON.

“I really felt motivated by the cause,” he said. “I really believe in the doctors that are at Penn State Hershey Medical Center and I truly believe they will find a cure for pediatric cancer.”

On the official THON website, Kessler’s bio states he enjoys cooking, traveling, basketball (he was a Hilltopper before graduating in 2009) and keeping up with his fast-paced field of information technology.

Upon graduation, he’ll be shipping off to Connecticut to work for General Electric.

“I’ll be joining their information technology leadership program,” he said. “So, I’ll be in a variety of different roles.”

And THON, with its yearlong fundraising push and final three days of chaos, was definitely a good learning experience.

“I think it’s a really unique thing because it’s a student-run philanthropy,” he said. “You really gain a lot in terms of leadership and management.”

But for Kessler, who closes his emails with “For The Kids,” the true purpose of THON is clear and he proudly upholds it.

“The whole goal is to help provide for these families and help them get through this really difficult time in their lives,” he said.

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