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Ithaca College Students Host First BomberTHON

Morale captains leading a morale dance at the first BomberTHON. (Photo Courtesy of James Murphy/Ithaca Week)

On Saturday, Dec. 7, Ithaca College hosted its first BomberTHON, an effort to raise money for the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse. The event, from 1-7 p.m. in the fitness center, was attended by 190 students.

BomberTHON organizers had originally hoped that the event would raise a total of $15,000. However, by the end of the six hours, the event had far surpassed that, reaching $28,233.

THONParticipants getting ready for the start of BomberTHON (James Murphy/Ithaca Week)

What is BomberTHON?

BomberTHON is a philanthropy club run by students dedicated to enhancing the lives of families and children affected by childhood cancer. It assists families financially and emotionally while funding critical research in an effort to find a cure.

BomberTHON is associated with a Children’s Miracle Network hospital, which is part of the THON network. The nearest one to Ithaca College is Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse.

“It was a natural fit for us,” Lee Folger said, the chief morale captain of the event.

In that role, Folger was responsible for maintaining participant enthusiasm during the dance marathon.

Who came up with the idea?

Folger went to school near the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, which has its own dance marathon called Carolina for the Kids. UNC got involved with his high school, and Lee was asked to be a morale captain his junior year, not knowing what Carolina for the Kids was. He said “yes.”

“I really fell in love with it,” Folger said.

The dance marathon fundraisers from his high school years slipped to the back of his mind when he came to IC. One day, Laura Heppes, the executive director of BomberTHON, and Folger were hanging out together. Heppes was scrolling through her Instagram feed and found footage of Penn State’s THON. After finding out what it was from Folger, the two decided to bring the dance marathon to South Hill.

“I asked him about it and found out he did it in high school,” Heppes said. “He knew all about it and we got it started here.”

Planning first got underway in April 2018, when they set up meetings with Children’s Miracle Network and Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. They also had to become a recognized club through the Office of Student Engagement.

Students write down who or what inspires them to participate (James Murphy/Ithaca Week)

How do you fundraise?

Participants were given a donor drive page where they could ask for donations, and they could also fundraise through Facebook.

During the event, there were fundraising pushes in which participants would raise a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time. For example, when Folger visited Syracuse’s THON, it included a segment in which organizers  had participants raise $300 in 300 seconds. They ended up raising $1,400 in that time frame.

One of the top fundraisers for the event was Thomas Edson, whose $1,373 was the second highest donation. Edson, who also served as BomberTHON’s hospital relations director, was drawn to BomberTHON because of its affiliation with Upstate Golisano, which hit home for Edson as a Syracuse native.

“Seeing all the kids there and the situation they’re in and what the hospital provides for them,” Edson said. “It was really cool to be able to help out with that and know where the money that we fundraise is going, knowing how many lives we’re making a difference in.”

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