The Opportunity Of A Lifetime: Two-Time THON Dancers Share Their Experience
Every year, more than 700 students get the opportunity to live out their dream of taking a stand (literally) for 46 hours in the fight against pediatric cancer.
The opportunity to dance in THON doesn’t come easily. Dozens of hours are spent fundraising and thousands of dollars are collected for the chance for dancers to spend one weekend on their feet fighting for a cure.
For two Penn State students, the exhilaration of becoming a dancer wasn’t just something they wanted to experience one time. Julie DiStasi and Kerstyn Auman took every chance they got to stand for 46 hours not only once, but twice. In the end, all of their hard work paid off when the pair was afforded the opportunity to dance for a second time in THON 2019.
“Dancing allows you to see THON in a different way and it is such a heartwarming, inspiring, humbling, and uplifting experience,” DiStasi said. “You forget about everything going on outside of the BJC and are able to live entirely in the moment.”
DiStasi danced for the first time last year in THON 2018 for her dance org, Tapestry. That’s where she met Auman, who also danced for the first time with Tapestry in THON 2017.
Since coming to Penn State, both DiStasi and Auman have been heavily involved in THON — through Tapestry, other THON organizations, and even on committees. Dancing was something they had both been looking forward to since their freshman year. For Auman, it even played a role in why she decided to attend Penn State.
“I happened to come up on a college visit my senior year of high school, and it just so happened to be THON weekend,” Auman said. “My parents and I went into the BJC to spectate for a bit, and I, having no prior knowledge of THON, was absolutely blown away by what I saw.”
“Seeing that giant dance party of thousands of college students standing against pediatric cancer made me realize just how special Penn State really is.”
While the pair initially danced for Tapestry in their first year as dancers, their second time they decided to enter the independent dancer couple lottery. It all started off as a hair-brained idea from DiStasi.
“At the beginning of this year, I get a text from Julie asking how I would feel about trying to independently dance together in THON 2019, and honestly, it didn’t take much convincing,” Auman said.
As a grad student at Penn State, Auman had to give up Tapestry in order to focus on her master’s studies. She not only missed being involved with THON, but she liked the idea of fundraising money from the perspective of a THON chair.
For DiStasi, the excitement and satisfaction she received from dancing just once left her with an appetite she couldn’t satiate any other way besides dancing again.
“When it came time to decide what role I wanted to take for THON 2019, I kept thinking back to how incredible dancing in THON was the previous year. I truly didn’t think it could be topped and I knew I wanted to do more for the kids,” DiStasi said. “I would dance every year if I could until we were finally dancing in celebration.”
Dancing for a second time allowed Auman and DiStasi to take advantage of everything THON has to offer that they missed out on during their first experience. They also felt more mentally prepared to fully embrace the experience during their second go-around.
As two-time THON dancers, DiStasi and Auman have advice for future dancers embarking on a 46-hour journey.
“I think the best way to stay motivated throughout the weekend is remembering your purpose; hanging out with the kids, keeping them laughing and smiling because that will, in turn, keep you laughing and smiling. And when you’re tired, keep dancing!” Auman said.
“Cherish every moment you have in the BJC. Do everything,” DiStasi said. “Allow yourself to get lost in the weekend and always remember what or who you are doing this for because 46 is nothing in comparison to a world free of cancer.”
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