Friday, February 17, 2012 Updated: February 21, 1:55 PM ET
PSU event kicks off without Joe Paterno
ESPN.com news services
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- An annual Penn State dance marathon was held for the first time without longtime head football coach Joe Paterno.
The Hall of Fame coach attended each year to rouse 700 students trying to make it through the weekend-long charity event on campus.
Paterno died last month at age 85 after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, his family requested donations be made to Special Olympics of Pennsylvania or the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, which benefits pediatric cancer research and care. Students and alumni know it simply as Thon.
Thon has raised more than $78 million since its inception in 1973. Paterno worked at Penn State for 61 years.
The 46-hour dance marathon started Friday evening and ended Sunday afternoon. According to the university, it takes more than 15,000 student volunteers to put on the event.
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.