[Editor's Note: The regularly scheduled Soup of the Week programming was interrupted to due to a failed recipe on the author's part and a pretty major event you'll read about below. The SOW will return this week, promise.]
Though I’m a proud Penn Stater, and I would recommend my amazing education at the Schreyer Honors College to anyone, I am not exactly full of pep when it comes to anything beyond recommendations.
I wasn’t so much of a joiner in college. And at a school with 40,000+ students, that can put a damper on your social life. Since I was a major joiner in high school (read: student council, drama club VP, and a random club about film and something else, plus other lame things), I was very much anti-clubs and orgs post-HS. So I kept to myself. Studied a lot. Wrote a weekly column for The Daily Collegian. Made some enemies as a result of said column; turns out my liberal lady views are a bit much for the close-to-retirement-alums reading the paper from afar. There was also that time I pissed off the not-so-lovely man known as the Willard Preacher. Willard is a giant building full of classrooms and almost every Penn Stater has had a class there. The Willard Preacher is what his name says: a militant preacher who thinks women are worse than the dirt on his shoes.
Awful preaching aside, I made some fabulous friends for life (and by friends, I mean 2).
If you’ve already jumped to the conclusion I’m a loner, right on.
During my four years in Happy Valley, I wasn’t a giant fan of football (close to blasphemy in Nittany Lion country) and I wasn’t a fan of the greek system (close to blasphemy in certain circles). My first encounter with the greek system involved a frat party, lovely warm cans of Natty Ice, and girls willing to flash the Alpha Beta Potato guys for “just one can.”
That was also my last encounter…
…until my sister decided to attend Penn State, too. As we are so very different, she did a lot of joining. She has a bajillion friends (thanks, facebook for rubbing it in) and joined a sorority.
She also got involved in this little thing called THON. Simply put, THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Very impressive stuff. And yet, if you’re not involved with THON during your time at Penn State (clearly I wasn’t), you don’t know too much about it. I knew it involved an insane amount of fundraising, canning, and a 46-hour dance marathon where 700-ish students didn’t sleep or sit down for all of the excruciating and exciting 46 hours.
But it wasn’t until this past weekend, a mere six years after my graduation, when my sister was one of 708 clinically insane and amazing dancers, that I truly understood THON. THON, short for the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, coupled with year-long fundraising efforts, contributes an astounding amount of money to The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
I’ll let THON speak for itself: “The [Four Diamonds Fund] offsets the cost of treatment that insurance does not cover, as well as expenses that may disrupt the welfare of the child. The Fund supports the medical team that cares for the children and funds pediatric cancer research through start-up grants and the Four Diamonds Pediatric Cancer Research Institute.”
In and of itself, it’s an incredible cause, but when you realize how little funding is funneled into pediatric cancer research, you start to get a better picture of what a school like Penn State can do:
Yes, that’s $9, 563, 016.09. Raised. By students. In 2011.
Enough to make you want to join in.
THON is FTK: For the Kids, for the 15,000 Penn State students involved each year, and for the Penn State community at large, whether you’re a joiner or not. I know this is a food blog, and I promise there’s a recipe below, but it’s probably a good time to sit back and realize how lucky I am to be able to write about food. The luxury I take in making food is not one you can typically afford if you’re a parent of a child diagnosed with cancer.
Say what you want about selfish college kids, but what I saw at Penn Sate this weekend was an inspiration. I’m prouder than ever to be a Penn Stater. The seriously talented photographer Sara Matulonis, a Penn Stater, my sister’s sister in Omega Phi Alpha, and a THON photography captain, kindly agreed to share her photos so you could see for yourself (you can learn more about Sara and check out her portfolio here).
My sister, plus the Alpha Gamma Rho and Omega Phi Alpha dancers, THON Chairs, and their THON family:
While my sister stayed awake for 46 hours, I ate. State College, PA is a pretty great college town, but I wouldn’t call it a culinary hotspot. And it’s most certainly not a vegan hotspot. Canyon Pizza, anyone? That’s why I’m such a fan of Mad Mex, a Mexican restaurant that caters to the vegan and sangria-lover in me. Although I may have had a-one-too-many-marg-situation there senior year of college, I’ve had nothing but delicious experiences since.
I like their motto:
Their massive Chopper Salad (literally couldn’t finish it and that is a RARE occurence):
Mad Mex offers vegan cheese and sour cream, and with burritos called the Angry Hippie, how can you go wrong?
When we returned from PSU, after my sister finally sat down and THON 2011 went down in history (remember that $9.5 million?), I wanted to celebrate with something messy and tasty, something to remind me how lucky I am that my biggest issue is getting chocolate off my favorite hoodie.
For the Kids Carob Chip Covered Popcorn
(serves 1 greedy quick cook rice, with help from speedy)
- 1/4 cup carob chips, melted
- 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
- 3 T high heat oil (e.g., safflower or coconut)
- Pinch of ground sea salt
1. Make a double boiler to melt your carob chips or carefully use the microwave. I recommend a double boiler.
2. Add oil and popcorn kernels to a large non-stick pan and heat over medium-high. Cover until popcorn is fully popped. Make sure it doesn’t burn!
3. Turn off heat, add melted chocolate to the popcorn and stir like crazy. When it’s sufficiently coated, dig in for a messy treat. Or wait until it cools and act like an adult.
I went the kid route, and it was so worth it.
For the Glory. For the Kids.
We are…Penn State.