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Couple Proves Best Dancer Mail Goes Past Pretty Pictures

By the time moralers began hauling bags and bags of dancer mail to the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center just after 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning, the 708 THON dancers had already been on their feet for 32 hours. This, in itself, was an extraordinary task–but THON was not even three-quarters over.

Dancer mail distribution is strategically scheduled early Sunday morning because that’s normally the time when dancers start to feel the effects of being awake and standing for close to a day-and-a-half straight. Feet start to ache a little more, backs begin to tighten up a little more and eyes begin to get a little heavier. The body needs a spark plug to give its internal battery the juice to push through the final hours of THON, and dancer mail is that spark plug.

At THON 2012, dancer mail incited as many smiles as it did tears. Faces flushed with red were present all across the floor whether it be because the reader laughed until he or she cried or because they started bawling from the second they opened their first letter. But for one dancer, mail call provided something much more than external emotions. One letter re-energized his heart and mind because it contained meaningful words from the one he loved.

J.D. Herr won the independent dancing lottery this year and while he has friends supporting him, there is no large group in the stands to provide comfort from afar, or a thousand words of encouragement when he turns around. His biggest supporter is his girlfriend, Alex Leahy, who was on the floor with him when I interviewed him just after dancer mail. It was her, he said, that provided him with the encouragement that he knows will allow him to finish out the homestretch of THON strong.

His first word to describe Leahy’s dancer mail was “book”. Leahy had written about the three best memories that she felt they’d shared as a couple, and took it to 324 HUB for him to open early Sunday morning. Without getting too personal, Leahy and Herr told me about these three memories.

The first memory was a trip to New York when they had the most hectic day, but, by far, also one of the most enjoyable either had ever had. The second was of the time Derr taught Leahy how to ski–which was a day full of laughs, for obvious reasons. And the last story was about a Christmas Eve dinner with Leahy’s family that provided the two an opportunity to make memories with those that they loved.

Herr’s moraler, Amanda Brodman, told me that Herr was not in dire straits by any stretch of the imagination before dancer mail, but that an obvious boost in energy was seen after dancer mail and Leahy’s letter in general.

While the laughs and the kind words of most pieces of dancer mail serve their purpose in taking the dancers’ minds off of their aching bodies and droopy eyes, the “books” like Alex wrote for her boyfriend J.D. have the ability to heal all that ails a dancer. It just goes to show you that it definitely is the thought, the deep, evocative thought, that counts.

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About the Author

Dan Vecellio

Dan is a graduate student in meteorology, hailing from Bradford, Pennsylvania. His interests include sports, Penn State and commons cheesesteaks. Feel free to contact me through my email or follow me on Twitter.

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