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Branch Campus Spotlight: Penn State Berks Benefiting THON

Small-but-mighty Penn State Berks has a true passion for THON and implemented strategies this year to support the cause while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.

This year, four eager, first-time dancers — Derek DeTommaso, Olivia Ahr, Nandini Patel, and Rebecca Zeiner — are representing Penn State Berks at THON.

It’s safe to say that these dancers know a thing or two about THON. DeTommaso was an outreach captain and executive and is now one of the primary chairs. Ahr, meanwhile, was involved freshman and sophomore year at Penn State New Kensignton. Patel and Zeiner were general members and outreach captains, respectively, before joining the executive board.

There are only outreach captains and one executive board at the Berks campus. But they have the same connections as University Park, according to Zeiner.

Every year, Berks hosts THON Dancer Week, which had to be adjusted this year to become virtual. DeTommaso provided a run-down of the week.

Monday, they held a “why we dance” livestream. Tuesday, they hosted a ‘Family Feud’ event. Wednesday, they served the dancers’ favorite desserts at the cafeteria on campus. And on Thursday, they held a social media livestream to countdown THON weekend, announce the fundraising total, give updates on the THON families, and more.

It’s no surprise that fundraising efforts have been fully virtual at Berks this year.

“We recreated some of our big events like our Vera Bradley & Sports Bingo Night,” DeTommaso said. “We held it virtual this year. Our main event that gets the most funds each year is our ‘Inspire the Night’ benefit dinner. We hosted that one virtually through Zoom webinar.”

The Berks dancers are coming together in DeTommaso’s apartment this weekend and are following all COVID-19 guidelines. They were tested prior to being together, are wearing masks, and are ensuring that no more than 10 people are together at a time.

In addition to being tested, dancers shared that they’ve adopted the so-called “dancer diet,” in addition to working out consistently to prepare for the strenuous weekend.

To these dancers, standing for 46 hours is completely worth it. They never forget the reason why they THON.

“We lost our own THON child, Laney Brown, so that’s something that keeps me going,” Zeiner said. “Just because she lost her fight, there’s so many other kids out there that we have to keep going for.”

The dancers reminisced on their favorite THON memories, including making predictions on performers, spending time with dancers and families on the floor, and fangirling over Daya and the Chainsmokers.

“It was just really fun and rejuvenating to be a part of the vibe that happens on the floor,” Nandini said. “It’s so alive and you can really feel that.”

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Penn State Berks dancers were resilient and approached THON 2021 with a positive attitude.

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About the Author

Lauren Wysseier

Lauren is a junior writer majoring in advertising from Fort Myers, Florida. She is a Floridian but, at heart, a Pennsylvanian. Her go-to fun fact is that she used to live in Barcelona, Spain. She is passionate about dogs, food, the Oxford comma, and most importantly, all-things Penn State. Don't hesitate to send her your best dog videos on Twitter @laurenwysseier or email [email protected] with other inquiries.

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