Hundreds of students embark on the journey of dancing in THON each spring, and the student volunteers assigned to assist these dancers have quite the task ahead of them, as well. But for Penn State alumna and THON 2013 Morale committee member Gabrielle Burke, she had no idea her assigned dancer would also turn out to be her future fiancé.
For those unfamiliar with the process, each THON dancer is paired with a student on the Dancer Relations committee (previously known as the ‘Morale’ committee). The assigned student plays a pivotal role in assuring the well-being and safety of the dancer during THON Weekend. They also provide encouragement, snacks, and variety of other resources necessary for getting through the weekend. Dancer Relations captains put each Dancer/Dancer Relations committee member pair together a few weeks before THON Weekend in February. And though many captains try to generate the pairings based on personality similarities, the chances of getting paired with your future soulmate is — well, arguably pretty slim.
Needless to say, when Burke’s captain sent out the pairings — enter THON 2013 dancer Charles Jelicks — Burke had no idea what was coming. The two students actually began their THON journey together like nearly every other dancer/committee member pair. Their first meeting involved food, small talk, and planning for THON Weekend 2013.
“He was a Dancer for Sig Nu, and I was assigned to be his Moraler,” Burke said. “We had our first Dancer/Moraler date at Panera followed by some swag shopping at Rapid Transit Sports.”
But soon after their first meeting, Burke couldn’t shake the idea that there was something unique about their bond. In fact, the pair found themselves hanging out more and more as the weeks leading up to THON went on. Though neither of them brought it up, the truth was obvious to both students.
“We continued to use THON preparation as an excuse to spend time together, but it was clear we knew this was something special,” Burke said.
By the time THON Weekend 2013 rolled around, the connection was undeniable. Burke and Jelicks continued to bond over their shared love of the cause, and they discovered they had more in common than they ever thought.
“During THON weekend we created an extraordinary bond, and when I left my last shift on the floor we hugged and cried together,” Burke said. “THON may have been over, but our relationship was just starting.”
Burke and Jelicks kept in touch, continuing to hang out whenever possible. Later that spring, they became an official couple. However, Burke graduated in the spring of 2013, while Jelicks still had another year left at Penn State.
“I moved to New York City after graduation and continued to take monthly trips back to State College to visit him and tailgate,” Burke said. “After Charles graduated in May 2014, he moved to New York as well.”
The couple enjoyed a few years in the Big Apple before deciding to move to Chicago together in April 2016. Jelics started a new career at Box, while Burke currently works in digital advertising for Google.
During Fourth of July Weekend, the couple decided to get together with some close friends who are also Penn State alums. The group spent the weekend vacationing along Lake Michigan. On the night of the Fourth, the friends headed over to the beach to watch the fireworks together. It was at this moment Jelicks fatefully decided to take the next big step in their relationship.
“That’s when Charles got down on one knee and asked me to be his one and only for the rest of our lives, and I said yes!” Burke said. “Our wedding date is August 25, 2018 and we couldn’t be more excited!”
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