Fighting cancer Cassidy organizes THON event

By on January 30, 2013

By: TIFFANY WOODALL Record Express Staff, Staff Writer



Joey Cassidy (right), overall entertainment chairperson for the Penn State Dance Marathon and 2009 graduate of Warwick High School, with Ashley Fazekas, a pediatric cancer patient who benefited from The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital, the sole beneficiary of the money raised by THON each year.

Joey Cassidy is the definition of a leader — a person who inspires others. This college senior has dedicated his time and talent for 10 months as the overall entertainment chairperson for the 2013 Penn State Dance Marathon (THON).

"It takes a person with a very big-picture sort of mentality," said Cassidy in describing his position. His committee of student volunteers is responsible for booking bands and performance groups geared toward energizing thousands of students and visitors at the Bryce Jordan Center during THON weekend.

While the 46-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon is the ultimate event for Cassidy and his crew, several smaller events take place in the months leading up to THON that require his team’s stage, sound and screen expertise. And this year, Cassidy added a brand new benefit concert — Chords for a Cure — to the line-up, bringing two well-known bands to Eisenhower Auditorium last Saturday night.

"It is really crunch time for us," said Cassidy. "It’s our final push for fund-raising, so we wanted something pretty big."

Among Cassidy’s committee are two band coordinators tasked with securing musical entertainment for THON events. When Chords for a Cure landed on their to-do list, it didn’t hurt to have contacts in the music industry. Those leads yielded Boyce Avenue of 3 Peace Records and Walk the Moon of RCA Records, two groups who’ve established an international fan base, performing across the U.S. and Europe.

"They were very excited," said Cassidy of the bands’ response to being invited to headline THON’s inaugural benefit concert. "They were very willing to help us along the way."

The show was strategically scheduled during a lull in the countdown to THON weekend. In previous years, the organization would send volunteers "canning," soliciting donations on sidewalks and street intersections, three weekends throughout the fall and one weekend in January. For the safety of students making those trips, all canning weekends took place during the fall 2012 semester in an effort to avoid dangerous weather conditions. That left a gap in the organization’s January agenda.

"THON’s one of those things that people just love to fill their time with," said Cassidy, adding that organizing periodic events "keeps THON on people’s minds."

THON was on Cassidy’s mind well before he enrolled at Penn State.

"My sister hosted a lot of those (canning) trips," he said. "Throughout high school I would have all these college kids come to my house and spend the weekend there. My sister was awesome, and she let me hang out with them. When I got to school here it was kind of a no-brainer to get involved."

He started by joining Atlas, the same organization his older sister, Emily, had joined. In addition to fund-raising with Atlas, he encouraged and motivated dancers as a morale committee member for THON 2010 and 2011. Last year, he served as an entertainment captain, working on many of the same projects he does now.

"It’s only in my hands for one year, so you do as much as you can for one year to move it forward," he said. "Where I see it, we’re not an organization with 10 $1 million donors; we’re an organization with 10 million $1 donors."

In just three weeks, THON 2013: Inspire Tomorrow’s Miracles will officially be underway at the BJC, and Cassidy’s emotions surrounding the anticipation can be summed up in one word — bittersweet.

"I’m not trying to overlook any minute of the next month because it’s been a really fun year for me," he said. "The people I’ve met and the opportunities I’ve had are once-in-a-lifetime. I don’t want it to end. I’m having the time of my life."

Visit thon.org for more information on THON and its beneficiary The Four Diamonds Fund, and tune in to the site between 6 p.m. Feb. 15 and 4 p.m. Feb. 17 to watch a live feed of THON 2013.

Cassidy is a 2009 graduate of Warwick High School and a former member of the varsity boys’ soccer team. He is the son of Joe and Kathy Cassidy, of Lititz. More THON, page A14