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Onward State Freshmen Reflect On Their First THON

It’s hard to describe THON to someone who has never been, and experiencing it for the first time is unique to each individual. Doing the line dance, seeing the slides of strength, and hitting the dab with 15,000 other people; you can never truly understand what THON is like until you’ve been. In an effort to capture the experience, we asked our freshmen staffers to reflect on their first Penn State THON.

Claire Going

I thought I had an idea of what THON would be like since both my mother and sister attended Penn State, but it exceeded my expectations. Seeing the student body come together for such an amazing cause gave me an overwhelming sense of pride in my school. Not to mention I had a lot more fun at THON than I originally anticipated. I imagined how difficult it would be to be awake at all hours of the morning and standing for so long, but I never thought once about how tired I was. I danced, sang, and cheered on our dancers with my THON organization, Bee House, and counted down the minutes until the line dance, which was my favorite part of THON by far. I was nervous to cover such an immense event for Onward State, but I ended having a ton of fun on the floor with the kids and dancers and learned a lot of lessons about reporting in the meantime. THON was not what I imagined it would be, it was so much more.

Shawn McGinnis

As someone who was raised in an area out of the reach of THON, I never really knew how amazing the event truly is. Spending almost 20 hours on a combination of both press row and the floor, I was truly able to take in this amazing event. From an outsider’s perspective you never really get to understand how much this event has to offer, but when you’re actually there it becomes a completely different experience. I gained a new appreciation for the dancers at the Bryce Jordan Center as well as the unbelievable strength of the children who attend the event. I cannot completely fathom the experience that I had at THON this weekend, but I would recommend it to everyone I meet. This is such a special event that everyone should be apart of in their lifetime.

Maggie Wrobel

I got to experience THON through a lens, which is a perspective not everyone gets to see. I was filming on the floor at 5 a.m. Sunday morning, and I remember looking up from my camera and really taking everything in, and all I could think was, “Wow, I love my school.” I realized that you don’t have to be passionate about THON to enjoy THON, you just have to be able to appreciate the fact that students on this campus spend an entire year working beyond boundaries (pun intended) to raise money and put an event together, all in support of children with pediatric cancer. I got to see dancers up close and personal while I was there, and while you could tell some of them were really starting to feel it by the end, it didn’t deter them. The fact that so many people are willing to spend 46 hours on their feet FTK and other people come to support them, is something everyone at Penn State should be proud to be apart of. There is an energy in the Bryce Jordan Center during THON that is electric. It seeps into every part of you, and you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of something so much bigger than yourself.

Steve Connelly

THON was an interesting experience. I didn’t really know what to expect going into the weekend, but I was pretty pumped Friday afternoon waiting to head over to the BJC.

When it was finally my shift at midnight, I shuffled over to THON and it was chaos inside the arena. It took a while to get into the groove of things, but once it all settled in, it became easy to see why THON is such a loved event at Penn State.

It was said before THON began that this would be one of the most exciting events that we cover as students, and it lived up to the hype. Many memories were made, from learning the line dance with everyone on press row to little Leah Still chanting “We Are.” The weekend was one to remember and I’m excited for a chance to do it again next year FTK!

Elissa Hill

I spent my first THON working info booths as part of the Communications Faculty & Staff Outreach Committee. I was thrilled to start the weekend with an early shift, but also a little disappointed when I realized that we would miss the human tunnel, which looked awesome from what I was able to see from our booth.

As a whole, I cannot believe how quickly THON weekend flew by. My first 45 minutes on the floor felt like it only lasted for about 5 minutes.

Claire Fountas

I know what they mean now when they say THON can’t be described, and I think that’s part of the reason why I’m having trouble putting it into words now. As a freshman, everything I saw at the event was a first for me; I tried to take advantage of that, and I tried to remember how much of a novelty that is when I was especially tired. When it came time for me to sleep (which only happened once the entire weekend, for about an hour), I almost couldn’t do it because my brain was still so wired with energy. It’s as if you get to a point where you should be so tired but your body won’t let it happen. I think it’s one thing that’s so amazing about THON; the cause and the concept are so beautiful that you don’t want to miss a second of it, and you just want to immerse yourself in everything. That’s what it should be, and I couldn’t have imagined a better weekend. (Also, my childhood dream was fulfilled when I ran into Devon Werkheiser while walking around the concourse and got a photo with him. That was pretty rad.)

Sam Panko

I remember visiting Penn State back in my junior year in high school and hearing so much about THON. Back then, I didn’t get it, I didn’t understand the concept exactly and why everyone was talking about it. It may sound cheesy, but just by walking into the Press Entrance, it all started to make sense. I was really amazed at how this huge event was run by all students and how everything was going so smoothly. But, the real shock didn’t come until I stepped on the floor. I turned on my camera but I had no idea where to point it. There was so much going on all over, so many emotions, so many colors – it was an oasis of filmable material. Yet, from countless runs to the media room through the labyrinth that is the BJC to filming Onward State staffers do the line dance at 4 a.m. to memory card issues and copyright issues and being able to be on the floor in an “ocean of emotion,” I would say my first THON was one to remember. Now, I can firmly admit that I get it.

Jess Cartwright

I come from a family of Penn Staters who all had been involved with THON, and I had visited THON for a few hours during my college visit when I was a junior. I thought I knew what to expect at my first THON as a student. I was wrong. I now know what people mean when they say it’s indescribable. I had the incredible opportunity to spend a lot of time throughout the weekend on the floor, photographing events and dancers. The most touching moment for me was during the last line dance of the weekend. I found it difficult to do the line dance while holding two cameras so I stood close to the stage and watched the dancers around me instead. Everyone had it down cold by then, so I was lost in this sea of people screaming “Blast off, BJC/Can you feel that energy?” and dancing like their feet weren’t killing them. During the last line — “Beyond boundaries, we believe” — when everyone pointed up, I turned around and watched every single person in the BJC point up, smiling. In that moment, I couldn’t have been prouder to be a student at Penn State, and I cannot wait for THON 2017.

Gabi Stevenson

Unfortunately for me, THON 2016 was only the second time I’d ever been in the BJC. That, combined with the noise, the bright lights, the crowd, and the excessive tutus made my first few hours at THON a miserable event. Once I got over the stress, though, the real beauty of THON and the Four Diamonds Fund came to light and I found myself experiencing THON in the most cliché way possible. I cried and held hands with my friends during Family Hour, I danced like I was at a rave during Go Go Gadjet’s performance, and I learned that even the bad experiences at THON are good experiences. Once I woke up from my post-THON coma, I had the opportunity to reflect with my fellow staffers about what the heck just happened to us, and how much we enjoyed it. My first THON was a stressful, emotional rollercoaster – and I can’t wait to go back next year.

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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