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Smiles Abound During Penn State Football’s THON Explorers Program At Lasch

THON is a joyous time of celebration and reflection, but more importantly, it gives the kids we dance for a weekend to forget about past struggle and spend the next 46 hours smiling bright. For some, it means getting a chance to spend a some time with their football heroes during Penn State Football’s THON Explorers Program held at the Lasch Football building.

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Families and players get together for a group photo

Each year, Penn State hosts a large group of families to partake in a fun-filled day with the football team. This year, families were matched up with two football players who they’d spend the rest of the afternoon with. Groups played fun games like human bowling and twister before getting a chance to test their strength in the team’s workout facility. Smiles were prevalent, and at points it seemed as though the players were having the most fun of anyone,

The afternoon began in the Lasch auditorium, where players were summoned to the front of the room in pairs to be assigned a family. The loudest applause came after Saquon Barkley’s name was called — the freshman sensation was quite popular among the kids in attendance. Players and families then split up into groups, congregating in various sections of the football building. There, players and kids shared laughs as they watched football managers sumo wrestle, saw 321 pound Derek Dowrey twist and stretch during a game of twister, and became living bowling balls during human bowling.

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Offensive tackle Andrew Nelson describes the Lasch Building’s Wall Of Fame to his THON family.

While the games were fun, it was the experience that’ll leave a lasting impact for these brave young boys and girls. Seeing their smiles radiate throughout the room proved even something as small as the opportunity to hang out with your favorite football player can create a memory that will last a lifetime.

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Cornerback John Reid enjoys ice cream and a smile with his THON family

After games concluded, the groups met in the workout room to test out the equipment, enjoy some ice cream, and get to know each other better than ever. Smiles littered the room as the kids had the time of their lives running around and tossing the football with their favorite players. “It’s great seeing the effect we can have on these kids,” Nick Scott said once the event concluded. “I grew up a Penn State fan, and I’d die for an opportunity to come here and play with the guys. I know a lot of these kids look up to us, and that touches our hearts.”

Scott noted the importance of the position he’s in. He knows that wearing the blue and white means you’re part of something far greater than yourself. The impact was palpable, and it seemed as though Scott had the most fun of anybody. As soon as he finished answering questions, he took time to sign autographs for each child who wanted one.

At the end of the afternoon, the children left feeling elated, and the players left with a greater understanding of what it means to give back. “This was my third THON, and third time doing this,” Brandon Bell explained. “It gets better each time we do it. Forging those relationships and seeing those smiles is what it’s all about. We just play football, these kids are fighting for their lives. It means everything to give them this experience.”

That, if anything, is the true reason why we THON for the kids.

About the Author

David Abruzzese

David is a senior from Rochester, NY, nestled right in beautiful Western New York. He is majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and as an avid sports fan, he passionately supports the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. He is the first Penn Stater from his family, and couldn’t be prouder to represent Penn State University. In his free time, he likes to alpine ski, and play golf. You can follow him on Twitter @abruz11, and can contact him via email at [email protected]

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