Penn State Love Stories: THON Brought Us Together

There’s no doubt that THON is a bonding experience unlike any other. When you spend 46 hours on your feet, without sleep with a group of people, you get to know them in ways few other experiences permit. But for two dancers in particular, their THON journey brought them more than just the experience of a lifetime–it brought them lifelong partners.

In 2001, Brooke and Philip Halliwell met during their junior year when they both joined the club Greekside. The club was made up of a bunch of Greek students who were also involved with Navigators (a campus Christian organization). Despite immediately taking a liking to each other, the pair started off simply as friends. A year later, the pair were both selected as seniors to represent the Navigators in THON.

“The THON experience was a fantastic one for so many reasons,” Philip said. “But it also brought Brooke and me closer as friends. It was fantastic to partner with her when we got along so well with each other.”

They both had been pretty involved with THON from the get-go. Throughout their tenure as Penn State students, both Brooke and Philip went on many canning trips, and for both of them, those road trips held some of their fondest memories of college.

The two might have known each other prior to dancing together in THON, but according to Philip, the experience was what really brought them together.

“We knew each other prior to THON, but (dancing) certainly brought us closer together,” Philip said, “Spending 46 hours with one person really takes you through highs and lows.  The experience was special for us.”

During their final semester at Penn State, they spent every possible second they could together. They both took a fly fishing gym class and even went on spring break to Arizona for a service project together. By this point, they were socializing in the same friend group as well. But it wasn’t until later that spring semester of 2002 that the pair went out on their first date. Philip took Brooke to the Deli Restaurant for her birthday that year after they got back from their spring break trip. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The two stuck it out through their post-graduate plans and made it work even though their paths were taking them in very different life directions. Brooke was headed off to Minnesota to prepare for med school and Philip ventured off to New England for an engineering job. Long distance was tough, but they made plans to visit each other every couple of weeks. They became very well acquainted with direct flights and frequent flyer miles in those few months they spent apart. Luckily, Brooke secured plans to attend med school in the fall of 2003 in a town not far from where Philip was working.

“On Valentines Day 2003 I proposed in Minneapolis (a very cold place to propose),” Philip said, “almost a year to the weekend of our THON weekend.  We were married in June 2003 in Stillwater, Minnesota, a month prior to Brooke starting medical school.”

Today, the pair has been happily married for 13 years. They have four young children–Liam, Henry, Rosie, and Charlie–and a dog, Polly. The Halliwell‘s moved around a lot after getting married, but have been settled in Colorado for five years now. Though they haven’t attended THON since they danced 15 years ago, they both hope to return to Happy Valley soon and show their kids the magic of the experience.

“When we danced THON was held in rec hall… a great atmosphere for sure, but I can only imagine what it is like at BJC.”

If you’ve been in the BJC at all this weekend, you aren’t likely to disagree with that statement. The air is electric with all of the energy and excitement. Plus, who knows, maybe two dancers will find love just like Philip and Brooke did this year.

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About the Author

Emma Dieter

Emma is a senior from the ever-popular "right-outside" Philly area studying labor employment relations and PR. She's also the Student Life editor for Onward State. She has been a Penn Stater from cradle and will continue to bleed blue and white, 'til grave. She loves trashy romance novels, watching Netflix, and crying over cute videos of dogs. If you ever want to talk more with her about how great she is, or simply have other inquiries, feel free to email her at [email protected]

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