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Seniors Reflect On Their Last THON As Students

That’s a wrap, folks.

THON 2023 is in the books, and for many Penn State students, that was their last THON before graduation. For those graduating, they’ve seen THON in ways many haven’t. From a virtual THON in 2021 to back-to-back record-breaking fundraising years, it’s been a wild ride.

Some of our seniors took some time to reflect on what THON has meant to them during their time as students.

Devon Craley

I will forever be grateful that I got to be a part of covering THON the last two years. Regardless of if I was there during the graveyard hours at 2 a.m. or later on at 5 p.m., I would do it all over again. Growing up in a Penn State family, I was always aware of THON and its impact, but I never could’ve imagined being there one day. Getting to cover THON will forever mean more to me than any hockey game I will ever cover, or anything I will ever do as a student journalist here at Penn State. Events like THON are part of the reason why I wanted to come to Penn State, and it didn’t disappoint.

Alysa Rubin

Although I was never with a committee or stood with an org, THON was always something that I looked forward to every year. It’s such a testament to Penn State’s culture, and it’s truly inspiring to see our student body come together for such a wonderful cause. I worked with Onward State for four THONs, and it was a pleasure and an honor to capture all that THON has to offer. From doing the line dance with our press row staff in the middle of the night to wandering the floor capturing joy, perseverance and wonder while also being invited into dancers’ homes in 2021 to document their efforts during COVID… I could go on and on about my THON experience.

I wouldn’t give up any of that for the world. Watching THON 2023 break a fundraising record was the icing on top of my THON cake, and I am so grateful to be a Penn Stater to be a part of this amazing effort, and I am so grateful to be a part of Onward State for letting me help capture history in the making for four years.

Colleen Nersten

THON isn’t really my thing, but covering it for the past four years offered me a unique perspective that most Penn Staters will never get to experience. It’s been a good lesson in covering something objectively while simultaneously not liking it on a personal level.

I physically laughed out loud when President Neeli Bendapudi praised the student body for its efforts when Penn State has over a billion dollars in the bank.

If only we could channel this energy into rallying for universal healthcare. Only then would you see me wearing a sparkly tutu and posting pictures with my hands in diamond form. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Adam Babetski

I don’t think I totally understood what THON was when I was a freshman. I knew it was some kind of charity event or something, but I didn’t know the finer details. I hung around in the BJC for a couple of hours during THON 2020 but never really got into it. I did my first THON shifts for Onward State during THON 2022 from 2 to 6 a.m. That in itself was an experience. I’ll be honest — I didn’t fully appreciate how incredible it is that a blip of a town in the woods of Pennsylvania is responsible for the largest student-run fundraiser in the world. While I did over 30 hours of THON shifts this year, I could only imagine the physical toll that takes as a dancer.

Regardless of what you think about the culture surrounding THON, or even if it’s just not for you, it’s for a great cause, and that’s what matters at the end of the day.

Larkin Richards

We all know it comes to an end. It’s beautiful, actually. One day, you have no idea what THON is, and then, boom! You’re the social media producer for THON’s official live stream, 46LIVE. Yeah, that happened to me. And yeah, I could cry out of love about it.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

I come from a Pitt family and was raised right outside of Pittsburgh. I didn’t grow up around Mini-THON or have any knowledge of what Four Diamonds was. Then came February 2020 — my first ever THON. I went as a spectator, and that’s all I needed. I had to be involved. It was something I had never, ever lived through before.

Fast forward to now, I spent all of THON Weekend working my tail off. It was my very last THON, and I feel sad, relieved, achieved, proud, and most of all, grateful. It’s not every day you experience such unity, hope, and love in one place. It’s electric. It’s hard work, but all the work is worth it. I wish you all could feel what I feel in my heart. It’s overwhelming. You meet families you never would’ve otherwise. They’re the best families you’ll ever come across.

The children are the strongest, most amazing, and most talented individuals. In my four years at Penn State, they’re who I’m most thankful for.

So reflecting on my last THON… Yeah, I’m sad. But I’m grateful I even lived this experience. I’m not sure anything will ever compare to those last four hours, but I’m OK with that. Every Four Diamonds child makes me believe hope is forever.

There’s only one right way to finish my statement: For The Kids and For The Blog.

Teagan Staudenmeier

I joined Onward State during the spring semester of my freshman year. THON was the very first thing I ever covered, and it was the last thing I covered before the pandemic hit. So, for me, it’s the only thing I got to cover every year as a student.

The feeling in the BJC, especially during the final four hours, is indescribable. There is so much love and emotion, and you’re surrounded by dancers who have given their all during the last 46 hours. You can see the exhaustion on their faces, but you can also see the love and the determination that remain for the cause. It is so incredible to see.

I’ll never forget holding my Onward State friends during angel hour — that feeling of love, sadness, and community.

I am so happy that, except for the COVID year, I got to be on the floor every year. THON is truly the best of what Penn State has to offer, and it makes me so proud to be a student here.

I have grown as a photographer so much over the years, and THON has been a constant during that growth. I look forward to watching the coverage as an alum and seeing committed students stand for the kids for years to come.

Ava Brendgord

My last THON was nothing short of incredible. Coming from Texas, I had no idea what THON or Four Diamonds were about. Now, I couldn’t imagine my Penn State experience without it. Getting involved my freshman year was one of the best decisions I have made as a student, and now as a senior, the memories and experiences I have gained from the organization are invaluable. Going to my last THON was definitely bittersweet, but the friends I’ve made and the impact the organization has created will last a lifetime. FTK, always!

Tobey Prime

Wow. I can’t believe my lost THON at Penn State is over. I remember participating in Mini-THON in high school thinking it was the coolest thing ever, but little did I know what a spectacle it was when I stepped foot into the Bryce Jordan Center my freshman year.

I never really got into any THON organizations while at Penn State, but after joining Onward State during my spring semester, I was blessed with the opportunity to cover it. My first year was in 2022, and our managing editor at the time placed me on the graveyard shift from midnight to 8 a.m., and to be completely honest with you, I was not thrilled.

Nonetheless, I took this situation with a glass half-full approach and jumped on every small story and event happening at THON, and more importantly, kept the energy up for my fellow OS staffers. Sure enough, it ended up being an amazing experience, and I got to hear first-hand stories from dancers, supporters, and every one involved from the in’s and out’s of THON. So much so that our current managing editor, Gabe, selected me to help lead the graveyard shift again this year.

However, this year was different. With it being my last, I took the time to really sit back and soak THON in. It truly is something amazing when you get that time at 2 a.m. to stare at all the dancers, and see all the THON committees running around and setting the stage up, checking in on dancers, and even serving chicken baskets. It’s quite honestly beautiful. You couple that with the MILLIONS of dollars that this university raises for pediatric cancer, and it just makes you sit back and admire how great Penn State is, but more importantly, how amazing the students are.

So, as I draw near to my final months as a student at Penn State and writing for this wonderful blog, I won’t think about the goofy TikToks I’ve made or the countless Penn State men’s hoops sidebars I’ve written or even getting the chance to cover football — I’ll think of THON. THON is the best thing that has ever come out of Penn State. It’s humbling to even say that I was a small part of it. God bless everyone who was involved in this year’s THON, but even more blessings to all the kids. For the Kids (and For the Blog), always.

Gabe Angieri

I still remember covering my first THON for Onward State back in 2020. I went to the BJC having no idea what to expect, and I left so excited about what I just experienced. It’s pretty simple — there’s nothing like THON. It’s an emotional, action-packed 46 hours, and it’s truly incredible. It’s so awesome to see thousands of people come to together in the fight against pediatric cancer.

Personally, leading our coverage of THON was one of the things I most looked forward to when I took over as managing editor. I’m so glad our team was able to be a small part of what I think is the best event that happens at Penn State.

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