My First Year At THON, As A Senior
I’m a senior and I’ve never attended THON before. There, I said it.
I started my college career in the always humble campus of Altoona, and easily made my way to countless football and basketball games, State Patty’s Days, and even career fairs, but I never made the 45-minute drive to Happy Valley for THON. For whatever reason, I never felt the urge to make the trip, always thinking to myself: “I’ll go when I’m a junior and senior.”
After a transfer to University Park in 2013, I made a half-assed attempt at going to THON 2014 and ultimately decided not to wait in the Pegula for what felt like an endless amount of time. In the end, I decided to head to the bar for a cold, typical Saturday night out in State College.
In hindsight, I could not have been any more stupid.
On Thursday night, I intently read about the Hope Express running through the central Pennsylvanian mountains in the middle of the night with -15 degree wind chills. Loaded with THON alumni and Four Diamonds families, reading their stories got me hooked on THON fever. I couldn’t (and still can’t) get over the passion and raw emotion the runners had coursing through their veins, clearly they weren’t going to be stopped.
As I read along, I imagined the BJC in its vibrant colors as a beacon of hope for kids everywhere. A place where there’s no such thing as a frown and where there’s always a helping hand.
Going into THON, I had my expectations, but everything about this weekend has greatly exceeded those.
Kids gracefully ran around the floor like it was the world’s biggest playground. As parents mingled like they do at the park, kids roamed free to wherever they pleased with toys as far as the eye could see. They were climbing on dancers as if they were ladders and shooting them with water guns as if it was the Wild West. It seemed like nobody had a worry in the world, and it was absolutely rejuvenating.
Everywhere I looked, kids who would normally neglect each other at a bar, met eye to eye and sparked up a 5-minute conversation.
Much like the floor, the stands were equally joyous. Frats and sororities bonded together like real brothers and sisters as fellow students happily unplugged phone chargers for one another. Normally, that kindness and gratitude doesn’t happen in the library or the HUB, but the BJC on THON weekend is different. I’ve realized the only way to get through THON is simply helping each other out. Whether you offer a piggy back ride to a fellow dancer or share a game of go-fish, the amount of empathy in the BJC is insurmountable.
Who would’ve guessed going 46 hours without sleep would create such a relaxing and friendly atmosphere?
At one point, you’ve probably heard or read the ever-famous Joe Paterno quote on THON: “When they say ‘We Are Penn State,’ this is what they are talking about.”
I thought I understood this quote like I know the back of my hand, imagining 107,000 screaming fans in Beaver Stadium wearing nothing but white. But you can’t grasp the gravity of that quote until you experience THON first hand. Right now, I have a brand new outlook on the word ‘community’ or even ‘family.’ Every line dance brings the building together as one, with one simple mission. Never before have I seen a community come together like this.
So, as the time winds down here and we listen to the lyrics of another line dance, lean on each other, give a piggy back ride, and most importantly, dance together. If we’re all going to be in pain, we might as well be in agony together as a proud student body and community.
The end is near, but let’s remain a pack that’s the strongest it’s ever been. We are Lions after all.