When most people think of Nittany Nation, they think of the group of students at basketball games. But a little known fact is that the group is also paired with two Four Diamonds families: the Nakonechni family and the Kreider family.
Most of you have heard Kayla Nakonechni’s story. She danced as a junior in THON 2013, but was diagnosed with cancer soon after. She went from THON dancer to THON child within just a few months, but that hasn’t dampened her spirit. The senior reenrolled at Penn State and is back at THON this year, with support from Nittany Nation and #TeamKayla.
A lesser-known story is the one of the Kreider family and Nittany Nation. One of the qualities that makes the group unique in the THON community is the challenge of having one of their Four Diamonds children pass away. Evan Kreider earned his wings last summer at the young age of 5, but Nittany Nation and the Kreider family have grown even closer despite their terrible loss.
“The Kreider’s have been here all weekend, dancing in the stands with us,” Nittany Nation supporter Kristina Nauman says. “Their energy is infectious, and we are all having a great time.”
For the first year, the org has had the opportunity to support both families during the weekend. The dynamic is certainly different from last year’s THON, but the Kreider family and Nittany Nation have held strong throughout the weekend. Their THON t-shirts include a special section for Evan, and the group is inspired by the Kreiders and the memory of Evan.
“They’ve suffered an incredible, tragic loss, with the passing of Evan,” said Nauman. “The fact that they are here, standing with us and supporting our dancers (Christina Kehoe and Kelly Brown), shows how incredibly strong they are. They’ve inspired us more than we could ever inspire them.”