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Blue Sapphire Gillian Brooks Trades Beaver Stadium For BJC As THON 2022 Dancer

Most Penn Staters likely know Gillian Brooks best as the Blue Sapphire — the beloved Nittany Lion star who famously leads the Blue Band into Beaver Stadium and captivates audiences with baton twirls and flips. This weekend, though, Brooks is eager to create a new identity for herself as a THON dancer

Brooks, now a second-semester senior, says she always knew she wanted to leave her mark on Penn State. What better way to cap off a trailblazing undergraduate career than dancing in THON, right?

Brooks, joined by best friend and Blue Band majorette Kaitlyn Wassel, will take the Bryce Jordan Center floor on Friday as a registered Independent Dance Couple. A dynamic duo since their freshman year, the pair have been avidly involved in THON through different committees during their time here. They always knew they wanted to share this special moment together, and now, their Penn State dreams are becoming a reality.

“When I decided to do IDC, I knew I couldn’t do it without Kaitlyn,” Brooks said. “She is someone I can spend weeks at a time with and probably not get annoyed, so I think we will really be able to encourage and help each other throughout the weekend.”

Despite current challenges, Brooks is no stranger to setbacks. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was not able to be in front of a live football audience for the majority of her junior year. Now, she’s grateful to receive a true in-person THON experience following last year’s virtual marathon.

“I think my favorite part of THON is seeing everyone come together,” Brooks said. “I’m just really excited for everyone to be back together this year, and I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to be on the floor with my best friend.”

Throughout the year, the dancer couple challenged themselves to a variety of different fundraisers to meet their goal. Brooks and Wassel combined prolific social media usage with some events involving their closest friends and family.

“During the month of October, we created a challenge to raise money that coincided with the date of the month,” Brooks said. “The first day of the month, we found someone to donate $1. Then, on the second day we found someone to donate $2, and so on. We also hosted a grilled cheese and tomato soup dinner in our apartment, which was super fun.” 

Preparing for a football gameday in front of #107kStrong is nothing like getting ready to stand for 46 hours in the BJC. At this point, the former is easier for Brooks, who says that she’s practiced her routines countless times. Without a band backing her up this weekend, Brooks says she’ll rely on her friends and family for support when she needs it most.

“I’m lucky enough that a lot of my close friends are on Dancer Relations and different committees, so I’ll definitely get to see them a lot on the floor,” Brooks said with a glow on her face. “My parents are also coming this year, and they’ve never been to a THON before. I’m from Michigan, so I’m really thankful that they’re taking the weekend off and doing the drive to come here.”

Brooks said that most people tell her that they’re shocked to learn that she’s been involved with THON for years and is now dancing, perhaps simply because they don’t believe she has time to do it all. However, she takes pride in proving them wrong.

“It’s absolutely something you can do, and I just want the next person who becomes the Blue Sapphire to know that you really can be involved in both,” Brooks said. “I’m so happy to have the opportunity to be involved in THON and participate in it for the past four years.” 

With just about two months to go until graduation, there’s a good chance THON 2022 is one of Brooks’ final Penn State events as the Blue Sapphire. Regardless, she’s got only one word to describe the upcoming weekend.

“Whimsical,” Brooks said emphatically. “There’s a lot of magic to it. It’s such a special kind of environment to be in.”

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About the Author

Emily Grill

Emily is a junior broadcast journalism major from New Jersey. She likes to think that being Italian and 5-foot tall are her biggest personality traits. You can probably catch her at Chick-fil-A at least two or three days out of the week. Feel free to contact her by emailing exg5292@psu.edu.

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