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An Unbreakable Bond: Penn State Siblings Take On 46 Hours As THON Dancers

Siblings are arguably the best friends anyone could have. Apparently, they’re the best dance partners you could ever ask for, too.

No one knows this better than Cali and Casey Capetola. The sibling duo is dancing in THON together as an Independent Dancer Couple (IDC) this weekend. Both Cali and Casey recognize how special the opportunity to dance in THON is, but know that it’s all the more meaningful that they get to do it together.

“We’ve always been super close,” Cali said. “Obviously, THON is special in itself, but I think it’s going to be even more special that we’re getting to do it as brother and sister.”

Going to Penn State and dancing in THON runs in the Capetola family. Their parents are both Penn State graduates, and their mom even danced in THON when it was held in the White Building way back when. She’ll visit her kids this weekend, too.

For Cali, dancing in THON was something she always wanted to do since transferring to Penn State in her sophomore year. As a senior, she knew she’d need a partner to complete the other half of the IDC couple and, naturally, asked Casey if he’d be interested.

When they found out they’d get to dance, it was an emotional experience that attested to how hard the Capetolas worked to make a difference. The weight of how special it is to dance in THON wasn’t lost on them, either.

“We put so much work in this year, so to see it all come to a head and be able to actually dance, it’s such a special and, honestly, difficult thing to do nowadays,” Cali said. “Everybody wants to do it, and it takes a lot of hard work to earn a spot, so I was overwhelmed and crying and so excited.”

While Cali has been able to experience THON in person before, this is Casey’s first in-person THON after last year’s virtual dance marathon. While he was relieved that they got picked, it also naturally came with some nerves, mostly because he hasn’t experienced a true THON.

The sibling duo has been fundraising since last summer and set their fundraising goal at $10,000. IDC couples need to raise at least $3,000 to enter the dancer lottery to have a chance at being picked. Some of their most successful fundraisers included ribboning during football weekends and cookouts with friends.

Networking and taking advantage of THON events where they could receive credits that would help contribute to their fundraising total also contributed to Capetolas’ donor drive.

Going into this weekend the Capetolas are reminded of all of the reasons why they THON. They take part in the organization for their aunt and uncle and their high school teacher’s daughter both of whom have passed away from cancer.

They’re also THONing for their partnered family, the Chayton Drapcho family. Because Chayton is still on active treatment, he won’t be able to attend THON in person, but he’s still playing a huge role in inspiring Cali and Casey throughout this weekend.

“That’s been a total eye-opener for us and I think having a face to put to the cause [of THON] is really going to inspire us to keep pushing when we dance,” Cali said.

While they have a lot of shared experience when it comes to knowing people who have been diagnosed with or passed away from cancer, Casey also THONs for his high school friend’s sister who passed away from Ewing’s sarcoma.

“Knowing the family and knowing what they’ve had to deal with…it definitely inspires me to work hard for THON, and hopefully, other families won’t have to experience something like that,” Casey said.

On top of experiencing THON uniquely as this year’s only sibling pairing, Cali and Casey were among the first dancers to enter the BJC on Friday.

“I didn’t realize at the time how much weight that held until I started walking around campus for THON events…That’s going to be an added special thing for us,” Cali said.

THON Weekend is chock-full of so many exciting moments, including the Pep Rally, Final Four, and the Kids Talent Show, but for Casey, he’s looking forward to experiencing what it’s like to be surrounded by the THON community.

“I think what I’m looking forward to most about this weekend…is just being able to meet and become a part of one THON community,” Casey said. “It’s one mission, one year, all together — because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much we raise. It’s how much we raise together.”

While dancing in THON was something both Cali and Casey wanted to accomplish, it’s also a bittersweet experience Cali will graduate in the spring, while Casey, a sophomore, will stick around as a Penn State student.

“For me, it’s kind of a culmination of the time we’ve spent together as youth, in a sense. She’ll be graduating this spring, and I’ll still be at Penn State,” Casey said. “It’s one of those nice last few memories together as adults, but [also] still [as] kids before we get to lead our own adult lives. That’s going to be something special to have moving forward.”

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Sadly, Mackenzie graduated from Penn State in 2022. She majored in English and served as one of Onward State's associate editors. You can keep up with her life and send compliments to @MackenzieC__ on Twitter.

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