Dan Ellman: Altoona Benefiting THON
Dan Ellman is just a sophomore. That makes him one of the youngest dancers on the floor this year, but his love for THON spans far past the four semesters he’s spent at school.
“It’s such an honor being so young. Two years of really hard work earned me this honor,” said Ellman.
Ellman, who is dancing for Penn State Altoona, began his journey to THON as most new Penn Staters do: completely bewildered. “When I came to Penn State, I had no idea what THON was,” said Ellman. “But during orientation, I kept hearing people say, ‘Get involved, get involved. So I decided to try Altoona Benefiting THON.”
It only took one meeting for Ellman to fall in love with the organization. “At the first meeting, I remember all of the captains went around in a circle and said why they THONed,” said Ellman. “They all had their own reason, but they all said, ‘For the kids.’”
Ellman decided to apply for a captain position at Altoona as a freshman. Even though the majority of the organization’s members are freshmen and sophomores, it was still quite rare for a freshman to receive a captain position. But Ellman did. In fact, his application was very well received.
“The executive at the time said that it was the best application he had ever seen,” said Ellman. He was named a Special Events Captain that year.
Ellman found more than leadership opportunities in THON, he found a community. “Even though there are 15,000 volunteers, every single one of them has the same passion and love. It’s so easy to make friends.”
According to Ellman, making friends was always a challenge for him. “I spent a lot of time at home when I was a kid,” said Ellman. However, he found a best friend in his father. “Since my mom worked, he was a stay-at-home dad. I was really close to him,” said Ellman.
Ellman’s father passed away during his junior year of high school. His father’s memory is always with him, even when he’s standing for 46 hours to fight pediatric cancer.
“He’s always in my mind. Him not being here is tough, but I think about Collin and all of the kids instead,” said Ellman.
Collin, of the Kratzer family, is Altoona’s THON child. At the end of the day (or perhaps a day and 22 hours), it’s kids like Collin that keep Ellman dancing. “When I started, I went in doing it for my dad, my mom, and myself. But then I realized that it’s about the kids,” said Ellman. “Collin is four years old, and he’s gone through more than I can imagine.”
Ellman will be attending Penn State University Park next year to study Health Policy and Administration, but that wasn’t always his intention. “I came to school as a business major,” said Ellman. “But through my involvement with THON, I realized that I wanted something more fulfilling. HPA is like business, but you’re helping people. That’s what I want to do.”