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Chester County Press

Avon Grove grad helps take THON to new heights

02/08/2021 04:42PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Lindsay Traino, a 2017 graduate of Avon Grove High School and a native of Avondale, has been making an impact in the lives of children and families affected by childhood cancer through her work as a volunteer for the Penn State Dance Marathon. Popularly known as THON, this event is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, and has raised $180 million for the fight against childhood cancers through the years.

Lindsay was well aware of the mission of THON and of its importance when she arrived on the Penn State campus as a freshman.

“I got involved right away,” said.

Leading up to the 2021 THON, Traino, now a college senior, is serving as an “OPPerations Director,” and has a leadership role in planning the event. Her responsibilities include supporting the 21 “OPPerations Captains” as well as its 750 committee members. Together, they work to maintain a safe and healthy environment for Four Diamonds Families and student volunteers at all pre-THON events, as well as during THON weekend.

The event is typically held at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa., but of course the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated some adjustments—for the safety of THON volunteers, Four Diamonds families, and all supporters, the 2021 THON weekend will take place virtually from Feb. 19 to 21.

Lindsay said that she’s very proud of what they’ve been able to plan, despite the limitations imposed by the health crisis.

THON weekend will consist of performance groups, Four Diamonds family speakers, and annual favorites such as a pep rally, headlining artists, the kids talent and fashion show, family hour, and more.

In keeping with THON tradition, the event will still be 46 hours long. Dancers will only be asked to stand for part of this time with designated rest hours between midnight and 6 a.m., in order to ensure each individual dancer’s safety. Dancers will be challenged to complete a set of tasks from home to show their support for the Four Diamonds families. The recording of all events for the livestream will follow all the COVID-19 guidelines that have been set in place by Penn State University, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the local government.

The stream of the event can be accessed any time between Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. to Feb. 21 at 4 p.m. at There will also be a comprehensive spectator guide accessible to viewers on THON’s website with resources on how to participate in THON safely from home. 

Lindsay, who majors in middle level mathematics education with a minor in special education, said that she is excited to help the THON organization grow and improve, even in the face of challenges this year, as it pushes forward in the fight against childhood cancer.  She talked about how students from many different backgrounds and experiences come together to improve the lives of those fighting hard to beat childhood cancer. 

“It’s nice to see college students involved in something that is bigger than them,” she said. “They all come into it with huge hearts.”

She shared a favorite memory of being involved with THON.

“Last year, at the Family Carnival, my co-captains and I played duck-duck-goose with a few kids in the middle of the gym,” she said. “It went on for the longest time because these kids did not want to stop playing. It was such a magical moment to watch these kids each get a turn to chase us and watch them smile as we were tagged and sent to the pickle-pot. To anyone watching it probably seemed like another silly game, but getting to connect with those kids and watch them laugh and play was a very special moment for me.”

Lindsay said that she really became aware of the impact that childhood cancer can have on a family back when she was still in middle school and she read the blog of a local mother who had a child who was battling cancer. 

“I remember being really affected by that,” she said.

Participating in THON for four years has deepened her commitment to helping others. While she completes her studies at Penn State, she will continue to work on initiatives that will help the organization improve moving forward, such as making THON a zero-waste organization.  

In the future, when she’s a teacher, she would like to serve as a mini-THON advisor or maybe help a school launch a mini-THON program if it doesn’t already have one.

She definitely wants to continue to help with the mission of THON.

“This organization will definitely be with me forever,” she said.