Thousands of Penn State students are preparing for THON this week by grabbing a few extra hours of sleep, staying hydrated, and stocking up on tutus, tennis balls, and water guns — but this isn’t only in State College.
Students are also preparing for THON at Commonwealth campuses across the state. Participating in THON at Commonwealth campuses presents a unique set of challenges many University Park students don’t even consider.
At Penn State Greater Allegheny, Bobby Kemp and his best friend Melissa Loftus are getting ready to travel to University Park to dance for 46 hours on behalf of their campus. We asked Kemp all about the logistics, challenges, and overall experience of being a Commonwealth campus student dancing in THON 2017
Onward State: How did you first get involved in THON?
Bobby Kemp: When I first got accepted to Penn State, I had little knowledge of THON, or even what it was. During the first week of classes, there was an activities fair for campus clubs and organizations. There, I first learned about THON, signed up for it, and I’ve been an active volunteer ever since.
OS: How involved in THON is Penn State Greater Allegheny?
BK: This year is actually our 20-year anniversary with THON. In 1997, CCSG (Council of Commonwealth Student Governments) included the Greater Allegheny campus. THON at PSUGA is a good-sized organization relative the size of our campus. Penn State Greater Allegheny has more than 700 students. and our THON org has roughly 30-40 members, 5 executive board members, and our advisor.
OS: How do you fundraise at Greater Allegheny?
BK: Canning at Greater Allegheny is our biggest moneymaker. We can at various storefronts in-state and in our community or close townships.
OS: What was your first THON like as a Commonwealth campus student?
BK: My first THON experience as a Commonwealth campus student was actually really nice. THON weekend itself was amazing, and having all the campuses come together was nice to see!
OS: Do you feel that THON helps create a “unified Penn State” by bringing together all the campuses?
BK: Yes, I definitely think THON helps create a unified Penn State. I feel this way especially during family hour. That’s when it hits us that what we do university-wide, and across every campus is for the kids, and we are making a difference in their lives.
OS: When do you arrive at University Park?
BK: On the Thursday before THON, our dancers are taken to University Park by our organization’s chair, Emilie Betters. The dancers stay at a hotel to get a good night’s rest, while our general members come up on Friday at 9 a.m. to get to the hotel and to get in line for THON.
OS: What do you do after THON?
BK: After the long THON weekend, Greater Allegheny students usually go back to the hotel to get some rest. Some students do leave right after THON ends to attend morning classes.
OS: Do you feel any disadvantages being from a Commonwealth campus?
BK: Personally, the only disadvantage of being from a Commonwealth campus is that it’s harder to get a THON child. Four Diamonds families are more commonly paired up with University Park orgs. Although it would be great to have a THON child to support and spend time with, it’s also a good thing, because it means there isn’t a child in need of our help.
OS: University Park org members in the stands are commonly in the BJC for shifts so everyone has a chance to go back home and rest. Are the spectators for Greater Allegheny able to do this, or are they standing for 46 hours too?
BK: PSUGA spectators are allowed sleep shifts and go back to the hotel to get some rest. It is also advised in our org that the students be prepared to go back to the BJC for when it begins to reach maximum capacity. Some students also choose to do a 24 hour shift. At Greater Allegheny, it is pretty open to the students. They can stay as long as they please, and are still able to go back to the hotel for a little rest.
OS: If you could be a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
BK: Tyrannosaurus Rex because they’re massive, scary, and THE apex predator… well, used to be.