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From Kindergarten To Dancing In THON 2021: Two Best Friends’ Journey

Penn State juniors Amber Bortner and Kelly Porter have been best friends since kindergarten. This year, their friendship reached a new height as they are dance together in the first-ever virtual THON from their living rooms.

Bortner and Porter attended the same elementary school, middle school, high school, and, of course, college. Suffice to say, they’re lifelong friends.

“We’ve been friends for so long that we don’t remember when we met,” Porter said. “I just feel like [Amber] has always been there.”

Though their reasons for attending Penn State are independent of their friendship, it was no surprise that their passions and interests led them to the same university.

The duo were active participants of their seventh and eighth grade middle school mini-THONs. Despite their young age, they got a taste of what dancing is like when they stood for seven hours and were a part of the committee club to help organize it.

They were also participants of their high school’s first mini-THON and helped build it from the ground up their junior year. It is still running today.

Bortner and Porter were ecstatic when they received the news that they were chosen as independent dancers after fundraising throughout the year.

“We got the email at noon on a Saturday, and I texted [Amber] in all caps like ‘AHHHH!’ right when I got the email,” Porter said. “It was super exciting. We loved fundraising regardless, but it was still really cool.”

Bortner and Porter are dancing from their apartments and plan to bounce back and forth between the two locations. They’re extremely grateful for the generosity of their roommates who are helping them run food.

“I’ve always had a passion for kids and a passion for helping people that’s driven a lot of things in my life, like my major, part of the reason why I came here,” Porter said. “So, I feel like THON encompassed a lot of the things I’ve always cared about in a really special way.”

The best friends also stressed the importance of keeping their environment safe amid the ongoing pandemic and will have no problem keeping each other company.

Bortner and Porter have a jam-packed weekend full of games and physical activities. They will be playing Jeopardy, playing Just Dance on the Wii, taking walks, and staying active. Bortner expressed her appreciation for the Entertainment Committee for coming up with activities for the entire weekend.

Bortner and Porter are big game show stans in their free time. The pair love playing games together and couldn’t be more pumped about Jeopardy!.

“THON is such a great cause,” Bortner said. “I’ve always been interested in fundraising. It’s kind of a part of my major as an event planner. But THON brings it one step forward because you get to interact with the kids, and there’s a whole community here at Penn State where you can bond with most Penn State students over THON, and you meet great people. You get to do really cool things that you wouldn’t be able to do with any other organizations.”

Bortner acknowledged the creative ideas organizations have come up with to have a special connection with their THON families. She feels extremely inspired by what they’ve come up with.

“My favorite part is seeing so many people come together for the same cause,” Porter said. “College kids get such a bad rep in general in the media being rude, selfish, or inconsiderate, but I feel like in THON, you see 16 thousand student volunteers and you see them coming together for something greater than themselves.”

Apart from THON, the best friend duo enjoy going to Penn State football games, Irvings, tailgates, and to Bortner’s beach house in Ocean City. Next year, they will live together for their senior year in State College.

The independent dancer duo has been best friends for their entire lives. In fact, Bortner doesn’t remember life “pre-Kelly.”

From Daisy Girl Scouts to the first-ever virtual THON, the pair couldn’t be happier to have each other by their sides as they raise funds and awareness in the fight against childhood cancer.

“There’s no one else I’d rather dance with,” Porter said.

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About the Author

Colleen Nersten

Colleen is a senior biology major from York, Pa, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She overuses the ~tilde~ and aspires to be no other than the great Guy Fieri. You can find Colleen filling up her gas tank at Rutter’s, the ~superior~ Pennsylvania gas station. Please direct any questions or concerns to [email protected] For the hijinks, always.

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