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Freshmen & Sophomores Reflect On Their First Real THONs

This year’s THON was historic for many reasons. The event celebrated its 50th anniversary while also setting a new record by raising $13,756,374.50 throughout the year.

For many, THON 2022 was their first real THON, especially since THON 2021 went virtual during the pandemic. Once the confetti fired and tears subsided, our youngest staffers took some time to reflect on their first THONs.

Mikey DeAngelis

I had always participated in “Mini-THON” at my high school, so I thought I had a sense of what THON would be, but I was still blown away. I was very involved throughout the weekend by writing from press row and taking pictures from the floor, but what struck me most was my time during the final four. With no press pass, I made my way up to the upper bowl with my friends and was amazed by how the energy there was just as high as down on the floor.

Every single person in that arena cared about the cause, reflected on those it impacted, and celebrated the fundraiser’s triumph. The “We Are” chants were as passionate and as spirited as the White Out and I felt like the Penn State community was as united as I’ve seen since I’ve been here. It was inspiring, uplifting, and emotional, and I am eagerly awaiting more THONs to come.

Anna Wiggins

After almost two years since deciding to come to Penn State, I finally got to experience THON in all its glory. Though technically my second THON, this year’s was my first in-person THON, and I can honestly say that I was delightfully surprised. My freshman year’s THON was strictly a virtual stream, and though pulling off a 46-hour live stream is certainly a feat, so much about the THON experience gets lost along the way. Coming into my first in-person THON, I was excited but still didn’t know what to expect.

The Bryce Jordan Center was simply electric all weekend. From seeing everyone in the stands, the dancers on the floor, the different organizations’ letters and signs, performances from students and kids, constant line dances, and musical guests, there was always something going on.

The excitement in the air was close to tangible. Even at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, the crowd was still buzzing and having fun. That was truly something to witness. I will say that Dua Lipa and Sia’s music needs to be banned from the BJC.

All in all, I had a super fun (however, exhausting) weekend and I’m excited to see what next year’s THON brings. Shoutout to whatever organization was in front of press row: Your stuffed monkeys stole my heart and kept me wildly entertained (Editor’s note: Think that was Penn State Fayette)

Annie Kubiak

This year was my first in-person THON, and I could not have asked for a better experience. I never truly understood the hype around the event until I got into the BJC. After hearing families speak on how much THON has impacted their lives and seeing thousands of students come together for a great cause, I understand why everyone loves it so much. I had the privilege of being on the floor for the Final Four (thanks, blog), and emotions were high. I will never forget all of the dancing, laughing, crying, and love that came from last weekend. For The Kids!

Mara McKeon

Wow. As I sit here trying to write this, I am finding it extremely hard to put the last three days into words. I had a lot of expectations and nerves when entering the Bryce Jordan Center Friday night, but all of those uneasy feelings immediately melted away when I took my seat on press row. I had the pleasure of being surrounded by 11 other brilliant writers here at Onward State while watching live cover bands and Chelsea Cutler perform, hearing people speak about the impact of Four Diamonds, and seeing all of these students come together for the same cause.

Looking around and seeing the enthusiasm and excitement from so many people for something that is so beneficial was beyond heartwarming. The most surprising part of the weekend had to be the line dance. I always thought the dance was going to be quite corny, but letting go and dancing like no one else was watching was so enjoyable every hour. Hearing “Dancer Relations captains to the stage” might be one of my new favorite phrases in Happy Valley.

Nolan Wick

THON exceeded the already-high expectations I had going in. It was obvious that everyone in the building was super passionate about THON, which I loved and felt clearly. The vibes were immaculate, from the bands, line dances, and everything else. I especially had fun being there in the middle of the night as part of our #GraveyardGang, too, and contributing to THON in that way. I plan to get even more involved next year, and I cannot wait to build off of a very positive first experience. 11/10.

Sarah Lynn DeCarlo

An experience of a lifetime! Being on the floor for four hours I️ was able to see the love and excitement of dancers and their supporters. For the Final Four, I️ stood with a friend who had childhood cancer, and it brought a whole new meaning to what THON truly is. Holding her during the remembrance of those who passed made me realize how short life can be. Some hours were brutal, as I️ pulled my first all-nighter, but being with some of my best friends this past weekend made this event amazing. THON in person was a million times more emotional than virtual, and I️ am so happy I️ was able to participate in this event.

Nina Jeffries

Before coming up to State College last year and this year, I was a part of the Fayette team. So even though I was involved with THON for two years, I really didn’t know what to expect because last year was all virtual. I was very nervous because I had doubt in the back of my head that I wasn’t going to make the 46 hours.

Once I got inside the BJC with my team, I can definitely say my whole mood changed. The music was so upbeat that just made you want to dance and the next thing I knew, it was 4 p.m. on Sunday and I could finally sit. When they announced Fayette as the top-fundraising Commonwealth Campus, and then when I saw that final total go up, all that pain I had from standing just left my body. I was just overwhelmed with so much joy that I got to be a part of something that made a difference.

Keeley Lamm

I can confidently say that I experienced both the longest and shortest 46 hours of my life during THON 2022. I really had no idea what to expect, but I was completely blown away by the magic of THON.

In some ways, THON was like watching the Mii Plaza for 46 hours. Who knew that 667 Penn State students sort of just walked around in the BJC for nearly two days straight? Not me, I guess. 

But in all seriousness, I wouldn’t trade my first THON experience for the world. I still find myself absent-mindedly singing and dancing to the line dance or craving a chicken basket at 4 a.m. I’ve learned that no matter how you’re involved with THON, it will leave a lasting impact on you. It was incredible to watch our Penn State community come together to do something that really matters and because of this, I’m so proud to be both a Penn Stater and Onward Stater.

Grace Hassing

This past weekend was my first in-person THON experience despite being a sophomore. Before this past weekend, I knew very little about THON. I knew it was something incredible and that we always raise so much money for the kids in the fight against cancer. But to be honest, participating and fundraising in THON were really just something to do that everyone does. My Club Cross Country team pushed us so much year-round to fundraise, but I didn’t feel that connection to the cause as others did. I don’t think I really understood the true purpose of THON.

Upon entering the BJC on Friday, I was so surprised by how many people were there and remember thinking all weekend how amazing and overwhelming (in a good way) it must be as a THON family or child to see all these people cheering you on and supporting you. In the beginning, when we were first learning the line dance, I thought it was a one-time thing we would learn. I didn’t realize that it would turn into something that I looked forward to doing every hour to keep me awake and lively as I started to get tired.

It made me so happy that everyone was participating, cheering on the kids, supporting each other, and working together to make this event happen as smoothly as possible. Being at THON made the outside world disappear and all that mattered was being in the BJC, showing support for our dancers, teammates, friends, kids, and families.

As the weekend went along, I quickly found out how painfully difficult standing for so long can be with little food and no sleep. I gained so much respect for the dancers because I could not imagine my 10 hours of standing at once turning 46.

The last day of THON was by far my favorite and a rollercoaster of emotions. I was there from 2 a.m. to the final four. The hours leading up to the Final Four were the hardest. Our feet were hurting, and we were hungry and sleep-deprived. But what was so inspiring to me that kept me going is that not a single person around me sat down. Standing for this long was so hard on all of us, but we all knew that fighting cancer is so much harder.

While leaving the BJC on Sunday, it clicked in my head. I remember thinking, “This is my why.” I knew why people loved THON so much and why it’s a life-changing experience. I felt that connection to the cause that I didn’t have before and found purpose behind the saying ‘I THON #FTK’.

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