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On the Floor for the Final Stretch

Being able to spend the final seven hours of THON on the floor was one of the greatest experiences I will ever have. Seeing what so many of my fellow classmates have worked so tirelessly at come to life in one unbelievable weekend is a memory I’ll never forget. I couldn’t ask for a better graduation present.

After an absolute rollercoaster of a school year, during which Penn State was the focus of the nation on multiple occasions, we got the chance to show the world our true colors. $10.6 million raised by a student-run organization for the kids; that is Penn State.

On the final day, I walked down to the media entrance of the Bryce Jordan Center floor just after 9:00 a.m., 39 hours into the dance marathon. The first thing I saw before entering was a dancer in tears, with her forehead against the wall. I only caught one thing she said: “I can’t do this anymore.” One of her friends was trying to comfort her, but she was at the point of breaking.

I walked on the floor close to 9:30 a.m. and the arena was nearly filled to capacity. A few minutes later, the parent’s of Courtney O’Bryan took the stage. O’Bryan passed away last semester in a tragic car accident. Her father talked about a scholarship fund they are setting up in Courtney’s honor and shared with the audience one of Courtney’s favorite quotes, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

With four hours to go, Jay Paterno took the stage. He praised THON and everyone involved. “Later on this afternoon you’re gonna shock the world,” he stated. His foreshadowing turned out to be true as THON raised over $10 million for the first time in the organization’s history.

During my seven hours, so much was going on around me, it was impossible to process it all. Some things stood out more than others, such as the family testimonies, which were nothing short of captivating and, of course, Tucker Haas stealing the show with his rendition of ‘Party Rock Anthem’. But nothing got the waterworks going like the “Celebration of Life” video, which was a tribute to THON children who had fallen victim to cancer. It was a beautiful video and perfectly captured the emotion of the arena; the entire BJC was frozen with eyes locked on the big screen.

I had the opportunity to spend a little time with Penn State Marketing Association (PSMA) dancer and Onward State’s own Ally Greer. She was a trooper, and I know I speak for all of Onward State when I say that we couldn’t be more proud of her and our other dancers, John Tecce and alumni Caity Rogowski. Through spending time with Ally, I got to meet her association’s THON family, the Krushinski’s. Seeing what THON means to them and how happy they were to be there: that’s what it’s all about.

With around a half hour remaining, Go Go Gadjet took the stage for what turned out to be an electrifying performance. They set the BJC on fire. By the time they finished, it was time for the overall committee to take the stage for the final portion of the event. As they started dancing onto the stage, claps echoed.

Before I knew it, it was 4:00 p.m., 46 hours had passed and dancers finally got to experience the simple joy of sitting once again. As the total amount raised was revealed, the BJC shook as students were marveled to see what their hard work had turned into. The atmosphere was beyond surreal as “My Love is Your Love” blared through the speakers. It was perfect.

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