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Owen Divers: From Protecting The Floor To Dominating It

I don’t think that I made it through more than an hour of THON last year before boredom took over and I ventured back to East Halls. But after just a few caffeine-powered hours in the Bryce Jordan Center and a trip down to the floor, my perspective on the world’s largest student-run philanthropy has taken a complete turn. I finally get it. And that’s thanks to a conversation with Dancer #181A, senior elementary education major Owen Divers, a Phi Mu Alpha dancer that’s dedicated a ton of time to the event during his four years at Penn State.

Divers spent two years as a member of the Rules & Regulations Committee before becoming one of their captains for THON 2011. Leading up to this year’s dance marathon, he decided that he’d spent enough time on the sidelines. It was his turn to take to the floor and put in 46 hours for the kids. His biggest inspiration to keep going? “Seeing how people have progressed over my four years,” Divers said. “That’s what’s keeping me going.” But that’s not it. His organization’s THON family, the Quells, provide a lot of motivation as well. They even bought him a special engraved bracelet, a constant memento to remind Divers why he’s here.

When I asked him and his dance partner, senior public relations and sociology major Quinn Allen, to tell me about the Quells, whose son Jared passed away in 2004 due to complications from a bone marrow transplant, they were at a complete loss of words. “Just put down ‘maniacal laugh’,” said Allen. “Unconventional, great for a laugh. Absolutely great for a laugh,” added Divers. “Unique, unbelievably inspiring, and unconditionally loving. Just something with a lot of ‘ly’s’,” said Allen.

Out of all the canning trips that Phi Mu Alpha goes on throughout the school year, Divers is always most looking forward to their stay at the Quells’ home. “Out of everywhere, canning at their house is the best,” he said. “They’re fantastic people. They’re so supportive and so appreciative of what we do, even in the face of losing a child.” Considering the energy boost that they give him on the floor, it’s no surprise that Divers’ favorite part of THON is Family Hour. “I know it’s cliché, but that’s what I’m most looking forward to,” he said. “That’s why we’re here.”

Divers’ favorite THON memory came during his sophomore year. He was working a Rules & Regulations shift in one of the back sections of the Bryce Jordan Center, “pretty bummed out” to be missing Joe Paterno’s speech and all of the action going on inside. “All of a sudden, JoePa comes around the corner and walks up to us, saying, ‘Hey kids, how you doing?’ That was the only time I met him,” he said.

It’s been over fifteen hours since the marathon first kicked off, and Divers is not yet showing any signs of fatigue, but he also hasn’t learned the line dance yet. He’s admittedly “awful” at the dance, even though he had to perform it on stage during one of the hourly lessons.

Divers had one last message for me as we finished talking: “It’s time to donate.”

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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