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Meet Holly Maitland-McKenna, The 58-Year-Old Penn State Alumna Dancing In THON 2022

Holly Maitland-McKenna is living proof that it’s never too late to achieve your dreams.

Since discovering THON in 2012, Maitland-McKenna has now made it her life’s mission to raise money For The Kids as a water fitness professor at Penn State Harrisburg. Ever since joining the THON community, Maitland-McKenna has raised over $51,000. This weekend, she will achieve her dream of dancing in THON 2022 along with partner Nisha Moorthy for the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG).

Maitland-McKenna’s fundraising journey began when she took a job at Penn State Harrisburg. She found out about THON through her students and decided to head up to State College for THON 2012 to see what it was all about, all while not knowing it would change her life forever.

“When I walked into the BJC for the first time, I just burst into tears,” Maitland-McKenna said. “To see all of these college kids coming together to plan this big event for children with cancer, on top of going to school, it’s the most amazing thing.”

Maitland-McKenna is now a co-advisor for Penn State Harrisburg Benefiting THON. Through her work as a physical education professor, she started her own fundraiser, “Swim for a Cure,” through which she swims for 46 hours once a year, totaling 33.88 miles.

Courtesy of Holly Maitland-McKenna

When asked how she does it, Maitland-McKenna said she barely prepares for the big swim.

“I’m an anti-trainer. I just didn’t have time to train before Swim for a Cure, so I basically just got in and did it,” Maitland-McKenna said. “Two or three days before, I was absolutely sick thinking about it. It was such a daunting idea, swimming for 46 hours, but as soon as I got into the pool all the nerves went away.”

Swimming for 46 hours was no problem for Maitland-McKenna, but she says dancing might be a different story.

“My big joke is that I have fins, not feet, so we’ll see how I do dancing this weekend,” Maitland-McKenna said. “I already know I’m going to be in pain, but it doesn’t matter because there are kids in the hospital who are in much worse pain than my silly feet and legs are going to be in.”

Courtesy of Holly Maitland-Mckenna

In 2017, Maitland-McKenna’s THON fundraising turned personal when one of her family members contracted cancer and became a Four Diamonds child.

“All of a sudden it hit home,” Maitland-McKenna said. “You never think that someone in your family is going to be affected by cancer. Her first treatment alone cost $35,000, so all of the money I raised in a year barely covers the cost of one treatment.”

Maitland-McKenna says she realizes now, more than ever, the importance of THON and the impact it makes in the lives of those affected by childhood cancer. Her work with DMAIG helps those who have graduated from Penn State stay involved with THON and continue to give back to the organization that changes the lives of Four Diamonds children and their families.

Looking toward the weekend, Maitland-McKenna says she’s excited to get out onto the floor, dance, and raise money for her organization.

“I want to get out there and show these kids that age is just a number,” she said. “Life is short, and when you get to be my age, 46 hours is nothing.”

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About the Author

Ava Brendgord

Ava is a senior from Houston, TX majoring in broadcast journalism. She loves coffee and bagels, traveling, and keeping a healthy balance between watching the news and reality television. Follow her at @avabrendgord on Instagram or email her at abrendgord@gmail.com.

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