STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The annual Penn State dance marathon has raised a record $10.68 million to benefit pediatric cancer patients, an event held for the first time without late coach Joe Paterno, officials said Sunday.

The total, which shattered last year’s record $9.5 million, was announced shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday to more than 700 dancers who had begun to tango and twist on Friday night to raise money for The Four Diamonds Fund at
Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. The 46-hour IFC/Panhellanic Dance Marathon, billed as the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, has raised more than $88 million over almost three dozen years.

But this year’s event was the first without Paterno, who died last month, less than three months after being diagnosed with lung cancer. The Hall of Fame football coach came each year to encourage hundreds of students trying to make it through the annual event known on campus as “Thon.”

Paterno’s son, Jay, donning a blue Thon hooded sweat shirt, told thousands of people on the floor and in the crowd that Penn State students should be known for their leadership in pulling off the annual event rather than for the child sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the school.

“If you live to be 100 years old, what you’ve done here for the past two days, weeks, months, all this time you’ve put into this, what you’ve done here will echo in eternity. You represent the best of our alma mater,” Paterno said, according to the Centre Daily Times.

Paterno said he kept a Thon mug that was among items placed as a memorial at the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium.

“That mug sits on my desk every day,” he said, adding that it reminds him of what Penn State and Thon is about.

After Joe Paterno’s death, his family had asked that in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations be made to Special Olympics of Pennsylvania or to the dance marathon.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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