Dunmorean of the Month: Alyssa Bielinski

Dunmore’s Alyssa Bielinski helps raise $13.7 million as director for Penn State’s THON

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore graduate Alyssa Bielinski served as director of Pennsylvania State University’s THON that raised $13.7 million last month for Four Diamonds Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey.

“The money was raised so families of children in this hospital do not have to worry about a bill,” the 2018 Dunmore graduate said. “The money will also be used for funds and research.”

Alyssa, 22, put in countless hours of time and effort to help raise money over the past year.

THON was held Feb. 18 to 20 at Penn State at State College. The event was held for 46 consecutive hours with students standing or dancing the entire time to raise money for the cause.

THON 2022 marked its return to the Bryce Jordan Center with its highest fund-raising total to date.

Last year’s THON was forced to go virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving behind a filled Bryce Jordan Center for a Zoom live stream where dancers participated from home.

THON 2022: Spark Endless Light celebrated its 50th anniversary and a return to the Bryce Jordan Center. THON 2022 shattered the 2014 record by raising $13,756,374.50 to combat childhood cancer.

There were some changes this year due to the pandemic. Children with active cancer treatment were not able to attend. All attendees had to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.

In 1973, 78 dancers stood for 30 hours in the first Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon at the HUB-Robeson Center, raising about $2,000 for charity.

Since then, it has evolved into the world’s largest student-run philanthropy and has raised more than $200 million to combat pediatric cancer.

The Penn State IFC/Penhellenic Dance Marathon or THON is a student-run philanthropy committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by cancer. Its mission is to provide emotional and financial support, spread awareness, and ensure funding for critical research – all in pursuit of a cure.

Students, volunteers and Four Diamonds families joined together at the Bryce Jordan Center for 46 hours. The volunteers gave children and their families the opportunity to forget their cancer diagnosis. Close to 700 students were recognized as dancers for THON Weekend, a feat that entails standing on their feet for the entirety of the weekend.

Daughter of AnnMarie Bielinski, Alyssa has volunteered for THON since her freshman year at Penn State. She was named Special Events Director this year as a senior. She was previously on the rules and regulation committee.

Well-spoken and articulate, Alyssa is a senior Rehab and Human Services major. She has a 3.7 grade point average at Penn State.

Alyssa graduated seventh in her class at Dunmore High School where she attained a 97 academic average. She was a member of TACT, SADD, Spanish Club, Earth Club and National Honor Society. She played four years of softball and was captain as a first baseman in her senior year.

Her plan after college graduation is to work in the non-profit development field of human services. She would like to add an internship before she enters the work world.

She said her experience with THON has been fulfilling. “It has been absolutely amazing,” she said. “You really grow as a person and it prepares you for life after college. You meet so many people and it is very rewarding. You get to hear and share so many stories. It is an awesome experience.

“I go to a lot of weekly meetings and lead a committee of 18 captains. There are 109 committee members. Special Events Director is a full year effort.”

This year’s event started at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, and concluded at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 20.

Alyssa said emergency medical staff and athletic trainers were on standby for the dancers.

“This is a year-round effort for me,” she said. “We are involved in events to raise money throughout the entire year.”

Mature beyond her young years, Alyssa said THON partners with the Penn State football team, holds a 5K run with over 3,000 runners in October, and runs a family carnival in December, among other charitable functions.

“The THON Weekend is our visible event, but my job is to continue with events year-round.

“This was a record-breaking year. It was so humbling to see all of this emotional support coming back. We contacted a lot of organizations and raised so much money through our fund-raising efforts.

“This has been such an amazing experience. I have built so many wonderful relationships through this over the past four years.

“It is such an experience that I can not even measure its worth. It will certainly help prepare me for life beyond college.”

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