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A Day In The Life Of A Student-Athlete At THON

No matter in what shape or form, THON has the potential to be extremely rewarding and transformational for anyone. Whether you are part of a committee, you’re a dancer, or you are just a generous donor that wants to help in the fight against pediatric cancer, THON provides an outlet for anyone to participate. It lets everyone contribute, and that also holds true for Penn State athletes. Sure, some teams might be in competition and unable to attend the event, some teams might have practice before they begin THONing, but other teams might have the day off completely in order to devote all their time to this charitable event. It all holds the same, they all have the same want to help in the fight against pediatric cancer.

In my time as an athlete, it worked like clock work when THON weekend rolled around. We were given a breakdown of how Saturday would look so we could plan accordingly, and then be able to take part in THON when we didn’t have athletic obligations. From an athlete’s perspective, THON goes a little like this:

Start off with practice early in the morning.
When THON weekend approached, our coach always made sure that we got in a good workout, but he also always kept in mind that THON dominated the weekend. He respected THON and thought that it was critical that all of us participated. So with a workout early in the morning, we were able to do what we needed to as a team and then we were able to recover and prepare for the events that would follow later in the day.

Host a clinic for the THON kids that wanted to play soccer.
One of the best parts of THON for me was when we were able to interact with the THON children on a personal level, which was at our clinic. Each year, we open up the doors to Holuba Hall and invite all the THON children that like soccer to play with us and kick around. I’ve always found the courage and bravery these children have very awe-inspiring and the fact that they want to spend their time playing soccer with some Penn State athletes is pretty awesome. We’ve always made it a point on our team that we make the most out of these hours because these kids deserve it, and we owe it to them. The smiles that radiate off their face and the enthusiasm they ooze is always infectious and I never fail to smile. We are able to connect with these children and their parents and it’s always a fun experience. (I mean, soccer is the world’s game anyway, so how couldn’t it be fun?)

Turn back the clock for a little and attend Athlete Hour.
As one starts to get a little older, I think any opportunity to be a kid again is something that someone will always take advantage of; that’s exactly what Athlete Hour is. All of the Penn State sports teams that are available, pack into corners of the BJC and set up stations where all the THON children can meander around and look for their idea of fun. We bring soccer balls that kids can kick around, the Lionettes face paint and do arts and crafts, golf brings a miniature golf hole, etc. Some of the best parts about this hour is when the water gun and foam sword fights ensue. Running around and sneakily squirting back your opponent definitely turns back the clock. It’s innocent fun and for a split second, the pain and negativity surrounding pediatric cancer vanishes. For that moment, we are just having a squirt gun fight, nothing else. Everything else is just a battleground and the prestige of winning is yours for the taking.

Take home the top trophy in the Pep Rally.
After weeks of testing out different choreography and then breaking it down and putting it into its final pieces, the anticipation leading up to the Pep Rally is monumental. Even though it’s all for a good cause, bragging rights around the athletics department is a big deal. Every year, we tried to compete and bring the “trophy” back to Rec Hall to gloat to all of our friends, but it usually comes to no avail. I think the most important part about this part of the day though is that we are able to revitalize the dancers the audience. If we can do whatever we can to contribute to the betterment of THON, then of course we would help out in any way possible. The Pep Rally is always a fun time to incite some life and competition into the room. The energy of walking out on the stage and performing in front of all your Penn State peers and colleagues is indescribable.

The day is over, so take in as much of THON as possible.
Saying THON is the largest student-run philanthropy is not only a fact, but it’s an honor. The colors, the students, the passion, it’s unique to Happy Valley. The students that commit months of their time to make sure that the operation of the whole event runs smoothly are special. I mean, it takes special people to make special things happen, but it’s something that needs to be witnessed. As an athlete, it’s always admirable to see your fellow Penn State compatriots put on an event that gets national media attention, so of course we want to stick around and see as much as possible in person. It’s always fun to see the final reveal and take pride in our accomplishment, but as Penn Staters, we know that we will never stop until we find a cure.

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About the Author

Drew Klingenberg

As well as being a staff writer for Onward State, Drew is a self-proclaimed Pittsburgh expert and traveling enthusiast. When he is not hiking some strange yet secluded area of the United States, you can see him either standing entirely too long in the State College Chipotle line, or at the gym acting like he's doing something productive. If you appreciate sub-par humor or overly-saturated photography, follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@dmklingenberg). For inquiries please email Drew at [email protected]

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