Volunteer for Real

It is a wonderful thing to help people. It’s great to have fun while doing it. But sometimes I think that the fun overshadows really helping people.

I have several friends that attend Penn State University and I’ve been seeing a billion and one pictures of THON, an annual event at their main campus that raises millions of dollars to fund childhood cancer research. It is an incredible feat and it takes all year to hit their high totals, which is around $13 million this year.

That money will change the lives of so many children, and hopefully help bring the end of pediatric cancers into our lifetime. And all the smiling faces I see dancing on my news feed look like they’re having the time of their lives. But do they all remember why they THON the whole time they’re dancing?

In the midst of the selfies with children fighting cancer, I found an article published by onwardstate.com that gave some of the reasons why most of Penn State Main doesn’t actually THON. The people that emailed in their responses wanted to stay anonymous because of the social stigma associated with not doing THON, even though the majority of students don’t actually participate.

Some students don’t THON because of how competitive and political it has become, the fact that they can’t set aside that much time because of work or other commitments, or that they had already donated and aren’t interested in the high intensity atmosphere of the actual event.

However, the point of this editorial isn’t bashing Penn State or THON. The fact that the participants raised $13 million dollars is still amazing; I just hope they all danced for the right reasons.

I fully support races and relays and affairs that fundraise for charitable causes because they always do make a lot of money. But we always need to remember why we have these fun events. It’s great to have fun and take pictures so that we can remember and share the good things we do, but you shouldn’t walk for a relay team or dance for THON if you’re just doing it for looks. Those who are truly dedicated to a cause, whatever it may be, will be the ones who do the most and the best work for that cause.

If you want to help and make a difference, find something you care about, donate to it or participate in the event. Do whatever you can or are comfortable with to help, and enjoy doing it. That will mean so much more than the cute pictures on Facebook that look just like everyone else’s.

But I also don’t want to deter anyone that may not have a very personal connection to a specific cause from participating in charitable events. Everyone who puts in any effort or makes any size donation is a help to end cancer or fund research, so feel free to sign up with a friend to have a good time at Relay for Life or THON. Just remember what the point of all the fun really is – helping someone in need.