STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Special Olympics of Pennsylvania has received about $80,000 in donations in memory of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.
Paterno, who was 85, died last month, less than three months after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, his family requested that donations be made to Special Olympics or the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, which benefits pediatric cancer research and care. The dance marathon begins Friday.
Special Olympics president Matt Aaron said this week that some donations to his charity came from other schools. He said that some people made donations of $61, in honor of the number of years Paterno worked at Penn State.
Paterno's wife, Sue, is one of the lead organizers for the Special Olympics' Summer Games, held in June on the Penn State campus. Aaron said he expected Sue Paterno to continue to participate with the charity.
"A heartfelt thank you to the community for the outpouring of support," Aaron said. "The number and volume of donations were just a very moving sign of how much the Paternos meant to the broader community."
Representatives for Dance Marathon didn't have a similar estimate of Paterno-related donations. Organizers for the 46-hour event, which starts Friday afternoon, spent much of Thursday getting organized for the long weekend.
The Paterno family had been longtime supporters of the student-run charity, which is known in Happy Valley as THON.
Operations director Will Martin, a senior, said he was thankful for the Paternos' backing.
"We're very happy that they thought of us to be part of that," Martin said Thursday. "At the same time, with the love he gave to the university, we're not surprised that they considered THON in lieu of flowers."
The charity, which involves 700 dancers two-stepping and twisting through Sunday afternoon, raised a record $9.56 million last year. The event is billed as the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.