Why I Dance: THON 2017 Dancers Share Their Stories

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In exactly one week, 708 dancers will take to the floor of the BJC and embark on the experience of a lifetime. But for so many of them, their journey with THON stretches far beyond those 46 hours. Here are some of the stories behind why these admirable volunteers chose to dance FTK in THON 2017.

“It was hour 46 of THON 2016, and at the end of Family Hour, I turned to hug our THON child’s mom, Mrs. Garcia. She hugged me harder than anyone ever has in my life, and she held on for what felt like forever with tears in her eyes. In that moment, I felt the full weight of everything we’ve been fighting for. I decided I had to dance to carry on that cause and not let her down.” — Nicholas DeLissio, Lion Ambassadors

“This was my first year actively participating in THON. I got so involved this year because my sister passed away as a Four Diamonds child. I realized I was missing my opportunity to give back to Four Diamonds and wanted to do everything I could to make up for it. I also wanted to surround myself and make friends with people who shared a common interest and gave up their time to give back to the community.” — Andrew Engle, Axis

“I THON for the grandmother I never got to meet. Everyone tells me she was a saint and would have moved Heaven and earth to make me and my sister happy. Unfortunately, she passed away five years before I was born, so I never got to experience her love and kindness. Although she isn’t here today, #CancerCannot take away the tremendous impact she had on everyone around her. I THON for Barbara Jean Walker and all other families impacted by cancer.” — Amy Walker, Alpha Delta Pi

“For my brother, Tanner, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and is here today because of THON!” — Olivia Adams, Independent Dancer/Four Diamonds Family

“As a cancer survivor, I have always been drawn to THON’s mission and what it stands for. I wanted to dance to inspire hope. No matter what hand of cards you’ve been dealt in life, there is always a reason to be thankful and help others. THON has been one of the biggest blessings in my life, and I cannot wait to stand 46 hours For The Kids.” — Kate Bateman, Independent Dancer

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“I was born and raised in Newtown, Connecticut and was a junior in high school when the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School took place just down the street from my high school. It was probably the first time that I encountered a huge, unexplainable evil. When I came to Penn State, I became painfully aware of a new evil — pediatric cancer. I decided I wanted to get involved with THON because I saw it as an opportunity to make a change in this world in honor of the children and educators who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School. For me, dancing in THON is both an opportunity to represent those kids but also, on a more fundamental level, take a stand against the evil in our world. Horrible things happen every day, but we never give up because standing up to evil is a triumph in itself. Dancing in THON is a way to prove to the world that we will never stop fighting for good.” — Sam Boland, Apollo

“This weekend gives the families a vacation not only from their homes, but from the disease that is affecting their children. Over 46 hours, kids can become rockstars on stage and superheroes equipped with squirt guns, and it shows they will not be labeled as a ‘sick kid.’ They are all fighters who have amazing lives to live and I am dancing to make sure their lives are lived to the fullest, especially this weekend!” — Nikki Maginnis, Ohana

“THON changed my life forever when I went to my first Dance Marathon in 2014. From the line dance, to the pep rally, to family hour, to seeing all the kids smiling and running around on the floor — it showed how every single one of us involved in THON has impacted so many lives and families. To me, that is priceless. I am dancing for my org’s family (the Austin Stitzer Family), the Sean Geltz Family (Penn State Lehigh Valley’s THON family and my old org), and for every kid out there because we are giving them a future, a chance at a childhood, a chance to live!” — Dave D’Imperio, Common

“Because I know that by simply standing, I am helping to make a difference in a child’s life. I chose to dance for the same reason that I joined THON — to be a part of a huge movement and to be one of the many soldiers fighting a battle for those who cannot fight and for those who are still fighting.” — Andrea Johnson, Penn State Hazleton

“Out of our sufferings comes hope that lasts forever! God has shown me that this is true through many painful times in my life, and I know that His love can encourage others! There will be a day when God will wipe every tear and there will be no more pain and no more cancer, but until then, I want to keep dancing to help that day come sooner!” — Jessica Ruble, Cru

“During my time as family relations chair for my sorority Sigma Alpha this year, I’ve gotten to know our families (the Johnsons, Beckers, Joenes, and Rohrbaughs) and I’ve learned about each of their stories. Hearing about their strength during the toughest of times is ultimately what inspired me to dance. Despite what they were going through, they always stayed strong together, and never lost hope. I think their resilience is so incredible, so I dance for them.” — Danielle Kroesche, Sigma Alpha

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“Because it’s the absolute least I can do. I’ve been involved for four years now and I’m so happy to say I’ve gotten to know Dustin Beaver, Austin Keller, and their amazing families in that time. I’m dancing because of how inspiring our families are, and I think dancing is an amazing way to show that men and women’s club lacrosse is right with them in everything they’ve been through as one huge family.” — Aaron Aumiller, Men’s Club Lacrosse

“I chose to dance for our THON family, Robbie, Tucker, Zach, and Kai. Being an early childhood education major, I see how much of an impact older students’ support truly means to kids. We teach them every day to fight and not give up, and I know that they help me go through my days and never ever give up. The Penn State community will continue to fight. No matter what. We will fight until we never have to hear the word ‘cancer’ again. For the Kids, For the Fight, For the Cure. Always.” — Elizabeth Bream, Independent Dancer/Zeta Tau Alpha

“For me, THON is all about providing Four Diamonds children with a time full of excitement that is free of illness. These kids have struggled through cancer and they deserve special memories that help them forget about their sicknesses and have hope for the future. I THON for the kids that have shown me what it means to struggle, so that I can show them what it means to hope.” — Tom Kawchak, Apollo

“As THON chair, I got a chance to get to know our amazing families on a personal basis. By getting to know them and learning what they had been through and what THON had done for them, it made me realize that I needed to dance for them and for all the families that had a kid that suffered through or is still suffering from this terrible disease. I chose to dance because I want to be able to celebrate with our THON families and all of the other families for 46 hours.” — Abby Setley, Sigma Alpha

“Ever since I went to THON for the first time my freshman year, I knew I had to dance one day. Seeing the dancers and all the amazing energy inspired me so much and I was so excited to be a part of such an amazing organization. Becoming a captain my junior year, I didn’t think I could live out my dream of dancing as well as my dream of being a captain. Luckily, I found out that my position as captain allowed me the opportunity to dance during THON Weekend and I knew I couldn’t pass it up. Dancing my junior year was never something I envisioned, but I think it’s amazing, and I’m so excited for what’s to come.” — Kendra Paro, Independent Dancer/Trilogy

I got involved in THON with Water Polo my freshman year and went canning in 2013. In that first semester, I developed a unique friendship with our adopted THON family, the Wagners. The parents told me personally how much the organization meant to them in the midst of Britt’s treatment. THON 2014 was awesome — I got to hang out on the floor, and it was that weekend I decided I wanted to dance before I graduated. I stayed involved, saw Britt get healthier every year, and was elected to dance this year.” — Jeff Hauptschein, Men’s Water Polo

“I chose to dance because this is a cause that has been close to my heart for the past eight years. Cancer has touched so many of our lives and I want to dance in honor of everyone who has lost their battle, those who are still battling, and those who have won their battle with this disease. I became involved with the Four Diamonds Fund during my freshman year of high school, and dancing in THON will be the perfect ending to my senior year of college.” — Taylor Glowaski, Club Ski

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About Author

Claire Fountas

Claire Fountas is the student life editor for Onward State, as well as a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and psychology. She lives in a suburb of Chicago and strongly disagrees with anyone who hates the Cubs or the Blackhawks (so, pretty much anyone at Penn State). You can follow her @ClaireFountas or email her at [email protected]

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