Everyone knows that THON was started and is supported by the Greek community at Penn State (it’s the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, after all). But what about business fraternities? Though under a different umbrella organization (BFC), business frats are heavily involved in THON as well. We talked to the THON chairs at Alpha Kappa Psi about their involvement. Look out for their glowing bright letters in the stands as they THON on for the Pfluegers, Martins, and Ranks.
Organization Name: Alpha Kappa Psi
Year founded at PSU: 1950
THON families: 3: The Martins, the Pfluegers, and the Ranks
Dancers in 2013: 6: Chris ‘Panda’ Chiang, Charlie D’Angelo, Chelsea Franey, Katie Mailey, Yvonne Stephenson, and Eric Taylor
THON Chairs: Luke Lahann and Stephanie Hogarth, Charlie D’Angelo is Family Relations
Colors/mascots: Navy Blue and Gold
Signs: A (green) K (blue) and Ψ (pink) with lights outlining each, blow-up heads of the dancers.
More information: akpsipennstate.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Onward State: Why does AKPsi THON?
Luke Lahann, THON Chair: Our passion for THON started without families obviously, but as we really got into it and were introduced to our first THON family, The ranks, and had the privilege of adding the Martins shortly after, and then the Pfluegers after that they really made our passion grow, they’re the reason we do this.
Steph Hogarth, THON Chair: We’re proud to say that Katelyn Martin and Brittany Rank have been in remission for years now, so we dance for them. Brandt Pflueger sadly passed away, so we THON for his memory.
Onward State: How did you first get involved with THON?
Lahann: I was first introduced to THON through my sister, Lauren, as a freshman. She spoke so highly of it and told me how much good you can do, so I knew from the start that it was something I wanted to be a part of. I started with club swimming and haven’t missed a canning weekend since. I applied for and was fortunate enough to be a part of a morale committee and it was incredible, and then it culminated with THON 2012. I cried like a baby at the total. You can publish that.
Hogarth: AKPsi was how I was introduced, I was pledging during THON 2012 as a freshman, so I was lucky enough to get to come with an organization. My pledge class made posters and t-shirts and from that THON weekend I was hooked. I haven’t been on a committee or anything, instead I’ve dedicated my time to AKPsi’s THON efforts.
OS: H0w many supporters are here for AKPsi?
Lahann: We have about 30-40 people in the stands (Section 122). However, a large portion of the fraternity is either on a committee or in another organization as well. We have a lot of captains. It helps our dancers, I think, because they can see far more brothers who are on the floor for other reasons, as well as those on our pass list and in the stands.
OS: How much money did AKPsi THON collect last year?
Hogarth: Last year we raised over $74,000 for the kids.
OS: What are some fundraisers AKPsi does FTK?
Lahann: We hold a Date Auction where we auction off brothers and campus celebrities. The “dates” have ranged from candlelight dinners to apartment cleanings to meals with Mike the Mailman and his wife to photoshoots with the Nittany Lion and dates with athletes. We also started pledge class coin wars, so in our weekly chapter meeting each pledge class brings their change and puts it in a can decorated with their letters, and each denomination of coin is a point. However, dollars are negative points, so brothers can strategically place bills in the cans of other pledge classes and the winner gets a pizza party. It’s a fun competition and an awesome fundraiser. I also started and event called no-shave THONvember, but some choose to do the opposite. Brothers either shave each day or or don’t shave at all, and have sponsors give money for each day they go. This year we raised over $600, and I plan to grow it out as a senior. I’d like to expand it outside of just AKPsi as well and get as many involved as possible.
Hogarth: A big hit is the spaghetti dinner we do. It’s a $5 entrance fee and there’s a buffet of different pastas and salads and such. Monte (brother Michael Montemarano) puts his Italian cooking skills on display. We also did a merchandise fundraiser where we designed For the Cure “Spirit Jerseys.” We made them non-AKPsi specific so others have the option to buy them as well. Hopefully we can grow this out more next year as well.
OS: Do you have any THON traditions or special things you do for the brotherhood/dancers?
Lahann: We get on line early and get the same spot every year, so they know where to look for us, and alumni who come back can know exactly where to go even if they don’t know that many current brothers, so everyone stays involved. We have lots of inflatables every year, the dinosaurs are a big one for sure. Everyone wants the red T-Rex. Last year, we started getting fatheads of the dancers as well. We break them out late when they’re really grinding it out to motivate them to keep going. Each year we try and do something new to add a twist and make it surprising and exciting for the dancers. We added lights to the letters, things like that. We also created our own line dance before THON started for our dancers to see us moving with them. It gives us a connection with them even if we’re not right next to them, it’s a tradition we brought back and emphasized this year and it can have references to inside jokes and things, little things to keep them going.
OS: How’d you come up with your big letters?
Lahann: The letters we had last year were beaten up after the weekend. Originally, we were planning on making new ones, but we just revamped them and added the lights and they look great. We got wooden support sticks to reinforce the K and re-taped each letter a different colors. Again, little new things to add to surprise and excite our dancers. Morton (brother Morton Lin) did battery-powered LED lights for the outline of the letter and they should last all 46 hours without a battery change. We have backups just in case. We’re prepared for the worst. They can see them instantly and it’s a nice surprise when they can just see them and find us all. They stand out amongst all the other bright vibrant colors of THON weekend.
OS: What do you think of this year’s line dance?
Lahann: It was the first time I didn’t learn it before THON, it’s harder to get down when you learn it there versus knowing it cold going in. It’s difficult to get down when they teach it to you the first time because it takes so long. I like the bust a move and pelvic thrusts, they’re a great move, I’m a big fan.
Hogarth: They always toss in new things you kinda forget and then you’re like “that DID happen!” My only complaint is there’s a lot of free styling going on, and I’m not a good dancer at all.
OS: What’s your favorite part about being a THON chair?
Lahann: Getting to see the fraternity grow, we have an incredible passion and it gets stronger as weakened approaches. Getting messages from the families on facebook and getting to see them and interact with them is the best.
Hogarth: Everything! We see our families here and see the direct impact were making both monetarily and personally, and seeing our girls laugh and smile is incredible. Everyone knows I never respond to snapchats, but I do whenever Katelyn Martin (one of their THON children) does. She made us all bracelets this weekend, all of our girls are amazing.
OS: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in that role?
Hogarth: The capacity issues and pass lists have been a struggle. We try to use a schedule that doesn’t end up being followed that well for a number of issues. Coordinating over a hundred people is tough! Keeping tabs all weekend and making sure we have support for dancers is important. Overall capacity issues grow as THON grows. It’s great that THON has expanded so much and continues to, but logistically it’s tough. The system for waiting in line was rough this year and it is every year it’s kind of a mosh pit to get in and get seats. Organizations argue over space and it’s frustrating. Something so great causes such aggression and it’s unnecessary. We’re all here for the same reasons, no need to try and steal spots.
OS: What are you most excited about at THON ’14?
Lahann: I’m genuinely extremely excited to see all of our families.
Hogarth: They’re all far away from each other, so having them all together, interacting with the brothers and with each other, is awesome. It’s really special.
OS: What do you plan to do once THON is over?
Hogarth: Send out thank yous and cards to everyone who helped us achieve this.
Lahann: Another marathon for 46 hours, one in which I stay in bed and celebrating by ordering wings.
OS: Any encouraging words for your dancers?
Hogarth: Remember Katelyn and Brittany, they get to live their lives and we’re celebrating that, and remember Brandt and honor him. It’s all for them.
Lahann: Don’t stop, for the kids. They’re why we started this, we will be here for you and won’t let you quit, you are strong enough to do this. You’re some of the best people I have ever met and I know you can get through this. We believe in you.