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THON 2015, Through Eyes Old And New

Lexi Shimkonis — Freshman

As a freshman, this is my first experience at THON. There are few things more FTK than dancing, so I was lucky to be able to take in just a few minutes from the floor.

When I got to the floor, I felt like I was seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. Sure, I was expecting a grand spectacle, but the visual and emotional stimulation that hit me immediately was not something I could have prepared for. I was unaware that the committee member leading me around was beckoning me to get a move on because I was so taken aback by the sights, sounds, and general joy that is the THON floor. It’s tough not to be astounded as a freshman.

The first thing that I noticed was the rainbow of colors and fluid mass of people. Though mesmerized, I was quickly brought back by the plastic beach ball that hit me in the head. Kids and dancers alike were tossing tennis, beach, and footballs back and forth to one another in an attempt to stay sharp and also to make the most of their time on their feet.

I took a lap around the bottom of the bleachers so I could take in everything that I thought a dancer might in their time on the floor. I noted that, while no two people on the floor were doing the same thing, everyone was moving, dancing, or smiling about something, and every member of the audience was watching, cheering, and singing without a care in the world except the kids.

When my tour ended in center of the BJC floor, I wasn’t ready to go back to the record-breaking cold and my computer in the stands. I’d heard from Penn Stater after Penn Stater that THON is an experience like no other, but it was not until I was sprayed with water and hit with the emotions of 700 dancers, all FTK, that I realized for myself what THON is, and what it means.

If you ever get the opportunity to spend even a minute on the THON floor, take in any and every color, sign, emotion, smell, and interaction that you can, because it is a moment that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.

***

Jessica Myers — Senior

Throughout my four years at Penn State, I have been spent three of them involved in THON, and each experience with THON has been wonderful and remarkably different from the rest.

As a freshman, I was so overwhelmed by my first year at college, taking in all the new sights and the huge scale of the university, that I simply missed the deadline to apply for THON committees. However, I remember attending THON that spring, in 2012, and falling in love with the atmosphere. The BJC was filled to capacity, the space was just a frenzy of color and music, and somewhere between my third line dance and another rendition of the Cha Cha Slide, I knew I would become fully involved the next year.

My sophomore year, I spent my THON experience on the floor, cheering on my dancer as his moraler. I donned the bright yellow, stuffed my fanny pack, and rocked the tutu — and was utterly awestruck the entire time. My first shift, I was on the floor, right after the dancers stood at 6 p.m., and to be on the floor is such a unique feeling. Somehow, THON seems larger, even more incomprehensible, when you’re right in the pit of it, stacked and surrounded on all sides.

Last year, being on Donor and Alumni Relations, my THON weekend consisted of taking alumni and donors on tours around the BJC, showing them the ins and outs of the event. In this way, I was on a much more behind-the-scenes scoop of THON — rather than being out on the floor the entire time, I was primarily in back hallways, or helping out with shifts in the concessions stands. It was still just was memorable and wonderful, and the friends I made through DAR are still some of my closest ones today.

This year, I again have the opportunity to witness a different facet of THON: Sitting on press row, I have the perfect view on the outskirts of the BJC arena, and cover the events rather than be directly involved. However, already, this weekend is shaping up to be my best yet. Yesterday, I was able to hug Charles Millard, the founder of the Four Diamonds Fund, and personally thank him for all he’s done. I’ve learned more about THON this year than I ever have, and I know that, regardless of what changes may occur and how THON will progress, it will always be something I deeply cherish.

THON is nearly indescribable. I can think of so many words — colorful, energetic, emotional, exhausting, inspirational — but I can’t think of one that sums it up entirely. The weekend never quite feels real, and even as I write this, in the midst of music at the BJC, it still seems surreal — something I’ve planned and worked toward but I can’t believe is actually here.

But I’ve experienced THON before, and I know the exact moment that the realization of this weekend will hit me: Sunday afternoon, during the Final Four hours, as I link arms with those around me and experience the strength of Four Diamonds and FTK with everyone bonded together.

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