‘This Is Home’: Former THON Child Tucker Haas Dancing In THON 2023

As a THON child for Alpha Tau Omega, Tucker Haas played games on the front lawn of the frat house and hung out with the brothers on the weekends. 

“I knew it was my home,” Haas said. “I knew I could come here and have all these people that would love me, and I could be myself.”

As a Penn State senior today, he represents ATO on the floor of THON 2023 and will stand for the full 46 hours in his 20th THON.

“I was once one of those kids fighting for their lives,” Haas said. ”And now, I’m helping these kids fight for theirs.”

Adopted by ATO and ZTA, Haas was diagnosed with sarcoma at just two years old in 2002.

“My mom was actually rocking me to sleep one night and found a bump behind my right ear… It was a Friday evening after she was putting me to bed,” Haas said.

“By Monday morning, I was in the hospital diagnosed with cancer,” Haas said. “…My mom took off [work] when I was sick to sleep on the windowsill beside my bed when I was going through treatment.”

While Tucker’s father worked to support both him and his sister, his mother stayed by his side through the lengthy radiation process at Hershey Medical Center, now Penn State Children’s Hospital. 

“Through those two years, I had 77 radiation treatments, three, four, five times the lethal limit for being a two-year-old, three-year-old, and four-year-old child,” Haas said.

Through three relapses of his cancer, Haas also endured stem cell transplants and two thoracotomy surgeries to remove the majority of his right lung, to which the cancer had spread. 

Courtesy of Tucker Haas

But while the battle was long, and the battle was tough, Haas proved tougher.

On February 12, 2006, Haas went into remission for the fourth time. This February, he celebrated 16 years of being cancer-free.

Even though Haas is now a Four Diamonds alum, the friendships found through THON remain strong for life. 

“Middle school was really tough for me, and I struggled with friends, and I was able to text these ATO and ZTA kids whenever I wanted to,” Haas said. “I could FaceTime them at three in the morning and they would probably answer…when I was going through stages in my life where I needed those big brothers and sisters.”

While also the top Greek fundraising organization since 1996, the pairing went above and beyond for Haas. 

“Penn State saved my life, but really THON saved my life, and ATO and ZTA,” Haas said. “…My mom always said she doesn’t just have me and my sister as her kids, but each year, she’s had a group of 300 new kids she has taken under her wing and obviously would do anything for.”

“It’s always crazy to think about if you have a group of 300 each year, how many people really have been a part of the journey?” Haas said.

Knowing the impact of love and support from a young age, Haas always wanted to come to Penn State since his very first THON in Rec Hall.

“It was a big party I used to come to and see all my extended family,” Haas said.

He has even appeared on stage a few times, too. During THON 2010, a young Haas performed a rendition of the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom, Boom, Pow,” and got the crowd bumping. 

Haas has attended 19 other THONs and has experienced it through every lens. After serving within multiple committees, Haas became the Family Relations Chair for Alpha Tau Omega in his junior year and facilitated the adoption of ATO’s current THON child, Gus. 

“This year, it will be his first THON and my 20th,” Haas said. “That was the most full circle I think full circle can get.” 

A remarkable story of paying it forward, the duo caught the eye of CBS Mornings. Here, a special message was in store: Five alumni brothers of ATO traveled back to State College to surprise Haas.

“They drove three, four hours to get here just to spend an afternoon with me,” Haas said. “Now, to see guys with children, wives…it’s such a cool thing because they are in a different phase of life, but they are still willing to give back to me and support my family.”

Impacting countless lives with undeniable spirit, Haas formed unbreakable bonds with ATO brothers both old and new. He even completed the full rush process to become closer with his class in 2019, despite being offered an automatic spot.

“Me and my other ATO co-dancers have already started a cry count for me, and I’m leading the cry count chart for the eight of us by a mile already,” Haas said.

On the floor with his family, Haas looks forward to showing love this weekend. 

“For me, it’s all about representing my organization and wearing the letters of ATO and ZTA on my chest as often throughout the weekend as I can,” Haas said. “…and wear that orange shirt on Sundays that we’ve done for the last thirty-some-plus years.”

Haas will also wear shirts representing fellow ATO THON child Joyce and childhood friend, Maddie. While each lost their battle, they will never be far from heart or mind.

“Representing all of our angels and all the people I’ve lost throughout my journey will be very special,” Haas said. “Being able to not just do this for myself, but do this for them as well… They continue to push me and motivate me to want to continue to do what I’m doing.”

After speaking on stage in THON 2020, Haas also gave a speech on Saturday morning and told his story to the large crowd of spectators.

“Everybody’s asking if I’m nervous but to me, this is home, this is family,” Haas said before THON. “To me, it’s just thanking them for what they’ve done for me.”

Using his voice, Haas recently realized the impact of his story. He plans to use this power to further the message of THON around the world. 

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to continue to grow THON and its message… as wide and as broad as we can take it,” Haas said. 

“They’ve given my family gas vouchers to get to and from the hospital and food vouchers…just things people don’t realize that the Four Diamonds does,” Haas said.

Courtesy of Tucker Haas

Grateful for THON and its generosity, Haas reflected on the best lessons learned along the way.

“You’re always going to have moments in your life where your back’s against the wall,” Haas said.

“To me, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel and that’s one thing that has stuck with me for a long time. It doesn’t matter how long the tunnel is… There always will be that light, just because that’s how life works,” Haas said.

Lighting up life on the floor of THON 2023, Haas is a crystal clear example of Penn State pride. Raising a total of $32,000 on his own throughout the years, Haas set a new goal this year: $20,000 in donations to represent his 20 years of THON via DonorDrive. 

“No matter the donation, how big or how small, you’re always working to make an impact on the lives of the children,” Haas said. “…A lot of people who donate will never meet these families, but just having the selflessness to want to help people who you don’t know is really cool.”

With clear goals for the weekend, Haas has one challenge left: dancing for the full 46 hours of THON 2023.

“I wouldn’t be in the position I am without the people who have been there to support me,” Haas said.

His impact will ripple out far beyond the walls of the Bryce Jordan Center, and Haas explained his final THON with clear joy. 

“All the stars are kind of aligning…” he said. “…This is a dream come true.”

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie is a senior majoring in Marketing and Psychology from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi, or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in the theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her sassy sidekick, 19-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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