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THON History Lesson: Atlas’ Fuzzy Pink Hats

If you’ve taken a stroll around the Bryce Jordan Center this THON Weekend, you’ve likely encountered a handful of fuzzy pink hats. What looks like a questionable fashion choice to an outsider is a symbolic accessory to hundreds of students at THON 2023.

Atlas is a special interest organization, one of the first of its kind, which was founded in 2005. One year later, the THON org got its first family, the Victoria Smith family.

“They were trying to watch the livestream, and they were trying to find Atlas, but we wear dark green shirts,” Family Relations co-chair and THON 2023 dancer Blake Ray said. “You can’t really see. There’s a lot of colors.”

Victoria’s mother, Steph, joked with some Atlas members that they should wear pink fuzzy hats to stick out. Naturally, they did just that.

What folks may not know, however, is that the original Atlas hat was actually blue.

“It all stems because of Victoria when she was younger. She would wear a blue fuzzy hat, and her favorite color was pink,” Ray explained. “Ever since then, we’ve been wearing pink hats so they can see us in the stands. It’s kind of been our signature identity of our org, and people love seeing it and love wearing them.”

Throughout THON Weekend, you’ll likely see a sea of pink fluff where Atlas is camping out in support of its families and dancers.

This year, six dancers will be on the floor on behalf of Atlas: Katelyn Benner, Jess Reno, Julianne Wall, Blake Ray, Claire Staudacher, and Ben Colt.

“Each year Atlas has grown and with it, our pink fuzzy hats,” Atlas wrote on Instagram. “We wear them to remind ourselves that our families are at the heart of everything we do in Atlas and for THON.”

You might think purchasing a fuzzy hat is easy in the world of Amazon Prime, but Atlas has learned the hard way that it’s anything but that.

“Last year, we ran into a problem that we couldn’t find pink hats anywhere,” Ray said. “We ordered pink hats, and they turned out to be purple. So then this year, we started buying them from Party City and a bunch of other different places, and we kind of sold them out.”

Ray laughed and shared that Party City is going bankrupt, too, which could bring a new obstacle for THON 2024. Regardless, Atlas’ members are confident they’ll figure it out and continue sporting their drippy bucket hats For The Kids.

At its core, Atlas is a “goofy, fun-loving group of people,” according to Ray. The hats serve as a physical representation of its members’ personalities and spirit.

Atlas — named after the “Atlas” floor of Atherton Hall — raised over $130,000 for THON 2022 and is only looking to raise more this year.

“Atlas has meant everything to me and sharing our stories and seeing what inspires other people is what gets me most excited for THON Weekend,” Ray said.

In a sea of color, the Smith family and the rest of THON will always know where Atlas is hanging out.

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About the Author

Colleen Nersten

Colleen is a washed-up biology grad and former associate editor. Her legacy will live on through stories like “10 Questions With State College Sensation ‘Hot UPS Bae’”. If you’re a STEM girlie, this is your sign to take the leap of faith and learn to write. It’s pretty fun. Colleen misses the hate mail and can be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

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