As canning ends, Penn State York's THON looks to music, poker

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch
  • Penn State students are looking for new ways to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund after canning, a long fundraising tradition ended in late September.

Although just a sophomore, Penn State York student Logan Williams finds it difficult to say goodbye to a THON fundraising tradition that spanned more than four decades and ended late last month.

Penn State students Casey Dierdorff, left, primary chair for Penn State York Benefiting THON, and Janelle Kress, publicity co-chair at York, hang signs to promote the upcoming benefit concert for THON.

“I’m sad to see canning go because it’s fairly safe,” said Williams, the publicity co-chair for Penn State York's THON chapter. He added that last year, "we had to be in front of businesses only, not in the streets.”

Canning is a form of in-your-face fundraising that saw students walking around, usually at street corners, with large white containers soliciting funds from the public.

Students would carpool several hours to states across the Northeast to raise money during "canning weekends," a staple of many students' experiences at Penn State.

The tradition took a blow after a Penn State main campus student died in a car crash near King of Prussia on the way back from a canning trip in September 2015.

Within weeks of the accident, THON administrators announced the fundraising strategy would be phased out by 2019. It ended well ahead schedule on the weekend of Sept. 23.

Now, the York campus THON is one of hundreds seeking new strategies to raise money for the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, which raises money for The Four Diamonds Fund combating childhood cancer.

Casey Dierdorff, primary chair for Penn State York’s THON organization, also expressed disappointment over the tradition’s ending, but she quickly set her sights on finding the next big fundraising strategy.

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“Obviously canning brought in a lot of money,” she said, “but it’ll be interesting to see how we raise money from now on.”

One of her fundraising ideas formed over the summer, when she went through prior fundraising events with club adviser Barbara Dennis.

“She mentioned they’ve done a benefit concert before, and I thought it was a cool idea,” Dierdorff said.

She said she reached out to her brother-in-law Cameron Winters, a bass player for the York rock band Carving Out Fiction.

With Winters’ help, Dierdorff recruited two other bands, Heroes 4 Random and Moxie & Rebel, to perform a music fundraiser with all admittance and food sale proceeds going to THON and the Four Diamonds Fund. The concert took place Friday, Oct. 20.

"I love getting out there and putting on a show," especially to raise money for charity, Winters said. "I would perform several times a year if they asked me."

Other forms of fundraising students are considering include canvassing, car washes and a potential “spaghetti dinner” on campus for students.

Students also plan on continuing past successful events, such as a donation-only poker tournament called “Poker with Jimmy,” which has been the largest source of donations received through York campus THON organization in recent years.

Williams said the event brings the York THON organization the most money of any fundraiser, even canning. That event returns for an eighth year to Goodwill Fire Co. on Nov. 5.

"I’m fairly confident that we'll find new innovative ways to raise money," Williams said.

"We have to," he added, for the kids.