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‘It’s Really Surreal’: Checking In With Tucker Haas On The Floor Of THON 2023

On Saturday morning of THON 2023, Tucker Haas took the stage of the BJC to address the crowd during Greek Hour. Haas is dancing for Alpha Tau Omega and Zeta Tau Alpha in his 20th THON, nineteen years after the organization first adopted him as a THON child.

“My name is Tucker Haas, and I’m honored to be speaking to you all tonight,” he began. 

Calling out his organizations by name, Haas was met with roaring applause from the community and unified the crowd of thousands.

“I know my org went crazy when I went walking out, but not just within my org, but all the other people I’ve met at Penn State that are dancing in other fraternities and sororities,” Haas said. “It’s cool to see them cheering as well.”

While many Greek letters have been bouncing up and down with enthusiasm in the stands, there’s no doubt that members of ATO and ZTA have noticeably maintained stamina for their eight dancers.

“We always bring a lot of energy, and we always put up a pretty big number at the end of the weekend,” Haas said. “I think we’re just a very good example of what an organization should look like, and I can’t be more proud to be a part of it.” 

With the pride of a lion, Haas shared the lifelong bonds formed with ATO and ZTA onstage. 

“Over the last twenty years, ATO and ZTA visited me in the hospital, spent weekends at my house, and loved me like one of their own brothers,” he told the crowd. 

Following his speech, we checked in with Haas to hear about the experience firsthand. On the floor of the BJC, we asked Haas a simple question: Is it everything you hoped for?

He answered quickly and without hesitation.

“Yeah, it’s really surreal,” Haas said. ”Starting this journey 20 years ago, being the kid that came in here as a THON child to then now being one of the dancers that I looked up to when was a THON child.” 

Using the power of his story to impact as many lives as possible, Haas compared his two THON speeches and explained the growth of his dream from freshman to senior year. He previously spoke onstage at THON 2020.

“It’s crazy how much its changed in the last four years from coming to Penn State and saying I got to live out my dream by just coming here,” Haas said. “Fast forward four years later, I’m actually living out my dream by being able to be a part of the organization that adopted me and also being able to dance for them.” 

“And, represent not just myself, but my organization, as well as the whole Penn State University,” Haas said. 

In another lifelong memory made this weekend, Haas had the chance to meet up with ATO THON child, Gus, at his very first THON. As Family Relations Chair, Haas facilitated the adoption of Gus last year, and the moment meant the world to both parties.

“Just seeing him gives you that motivation when you’re tired, when you wanna sit down, close your eyes, and take a nap,” Haas said.

”You just look at him and how strong he is and what he goes through on a daily basis,” Haas said. “It’s pretty cool and gives you that extra push to keep going.”

Haas is joined in his dream come true by his fellow ATO brothers, who have bonded further through the weekend. 

“It’s really amazing to kind of get to see it all happen…and be there with him on the floor, dancing alongside of him,”  fellow brother and dancer Jett Tom said.

The weekend also brings ATO and ZTA traditions, which Haas has dreamt of experiencing since childhood. Dancers will dress together through a variety of themes including a suit hour, classic ATO and ZTA Sunday orange shirts, and a recent addition for one of Haas’ passions. 

“The boys are going to do a golf hour. It was my idea,” Haas said.

A lifelong golfer, Haas prides himself on enjoying the game for its mental health benefits. 

“With my radiation, I have a scar on the right side of my face and have had part of my lung removed, so keeping up with people has not been the easiest,” Haas said. ”I pride myself on being someone who enjoys the game for being outdoors and going out there.”

With the whole squad decked out for Haas’ passion, their friendship shines just as brightly as the BJC lights.

“I’m just grateful to be able to do it with the girls and the guys I’m doing it with in my organization,” Haas said. “I’m just excited to spend the rest of the weekend with them and get through the 46, and celebrate afterwards.”

As hours turn to days, the experience is undoubtedly draining on the floor. Yet Haas is enjoying every milestone of his final THON, staying strong as he has done time and time again.

“It’s hard to put into words, but I’m just grateful and blessed to be in the position I am,” Haas said.

According to his DonorDrive, Tucker Haas reached his fundraising goal: $20,000 to represent his 20 years of THON.

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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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