Samantha Fuss had a dream. The senior from Hazleton wanted to dance in THON 2014 in memory of the child who inspires her the most: Audrianna Bartol.
Audri—as she was affectionately known—tragically lost her battle with a relapse of neuroblastoma at 5:45 p.m. the Friday of THON weekend last year, a mere 15 minutes before the dancers stood. Earlier that day, when Fuss, a DAR captain at the time, found out that Audrianna might not make it the rest of the day, she drove up to the Geisinger Danville Hospital to see her one last time. The memory of Audrianna gave her strength during that THON weekend — a feeling that isn’t likely to go away any time soon.
Fuss’s journey to dancing in THON wasn’t an easy one. She set out to create her own special interest org, which she would call SuperNOVA.
“I want Audrianna’s memory and spirit to live on through this organization,” Fuss said. “I don’t want it to just end with me dancing.”
Fuss and her dance partner, Marques Pereira, created the special interest org out of sheer love for Audrianna and her family. The name SuperNOVA comes from the word “nova” which means butterfly, which were Audri’s favorite.
“Everyone has their SuperNOVA, or their reason to dance,” Fuss said. “Mine and Marques’s happens to be Audrianna. When I even think about being tired or think about complaining, I remember the reason I’m here, and that’s for her.”
After a year of fundraising and organizing canning trips, Fuss and Pereira entered the independent dancer lottery, knowing their chances were slim. But everything worked out and both her chosen.
“I can only think that Audri had a hand in that,” Fuss said. “Rather, I know she had a hand in this. I couldn’t have done any of this without her.”
SuperNOVA has their own Four Diamonds Family; the Joshua Glace family. This is their first year as a THON family, and SuperNOVA’s first year as an official org, so Fuss felt it was perfect and “meant to be.”
“We treat Josh the same way we treated Audrianna. We love him! He’s one of our own, just like family,” she said. “We’re so happy to be here this weekend with him.”
Samantha has been accompanied all weekend by her sister Stephanie Fuss, a Penn State graduate and current employee of the College of Communications as an advisor and recruiter.
“I’m so impressed with [Samantha],” Stephanie Fuss said. “She hasn’t complained once! She could morale the other dancers.”
Samantha Fuss and Pereira are still in close contact with the Bartol family. Audrianna was not a THON child. but it doesn’t matter to Fuss.
“We ran fundraisers separate from our THON fundraisers just to raise money to pay for Audri’s treatment,” she said. “Even though she wasn’t a THON child, it’s still important to help families through those tough times by doing anything we can, even if it’s now just driving up to say hi to her family.”
Fuss and Pereira’s story is inspiring and helps remind dancers of the many reasons they THON.
“We THON for Audri and all of the other children with cancer,” said Fuss. “I can never forget her.”