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Penn State Alum Brings Healthy Options To State College With Playa Bowls Franchise

For Penn State alumna Desiree Arroyo, Playa Bowls has been a crucial part of her life.

Upon graduating from Penn State in 2001 with a degree in administration justice, Desiree, who asked us to refer to her by her first name, took a job at a psychiatric hospital in Staten Island, New York, as a rehabilitative therapist.

However, she soon noticed changes in her health and had to seek care in the hospital, which ultimately resulted in heart failure and a multitude of other health issues.

This was soon diagnosed as a rare autoimmune condition that only 20,000 people in the United State have been diagnosed with. There is no set treatment plan or cure, causing her to seek chemotherapy as her main treatment option, among a multitude of other treatments.

“I was on [chemotherapy], and it was making me extremely sick,” Desiree said.  “Anyone else that has been on it, you know exactly what I’m saying.”

The relentless treatment was debilitating to Desiree’s way of life, even putting her in a wheelchair.

Desiree then tried Playa Bowls in New Jersey with her father, and the fresh juices were key in getting her healthy once again.

“I was trying to get some nutrition in, and everything I was trying wasn’t really working because I couldn’t hold down food very well,” Desiree said.

She quickly realized that Playa Bowls was a major part of her health journey, and she was involved with the company ever since that first sip. 

Once Desiree was back to full strength, she recognized that Playa Bowls was exactly what the State College community needed. She then became a franchisee for the company alongside co-owner Ramona Schatzer and signed the lease for the Legacy building, located at 482 E. Calder Way, in 2018.

The initial “Playa Bowls” marketing was placed outside of the storefront during Arts Fest 2018, and the grand opening finally happened on January 12, 2019.

Courtesy of Desiree

The opening was a huge success with patrons wrapped around the building, but the store and its employees had another big event on the horizon just over a month later.

THON 2019 was quickly approaching, and Desiree knew that she needed to get involved once again, as she loved the organization during her time as a student.

The store has donated food and funds, as well as shown support throughout the entire weekend for the past four years.

In a previous interview, Desiree shared her passion for giving back and helping those in need.

“As an alumna, all I ever wanted to do was give back to the school that gave me so much,” Desiree said. “One of my favorite memories at Penn State was THON, and to be able to have the opportunity to be involved in THON again and give back was a dream [of mine].”

In 2023, Desiree was once again a corporate sponsor for the student-run philanthropy. Desiree even took to the stage to share her compassion for the organization with the entire THON crowd.  

While Desiree’s THON connection is personal, it also stems from her love for her son.

“I have a 20-month-old son, and I can’t imagine him being sick and not having resources to turn to,” Desiree said.

He, too, is an avid fan of Playa Bowls.

State College and Penn State have shaped Desiree’s life, and she plans to continue supporting and nurturing Penn State for years to come. 

“For me and the Playa Bowls journey, it’s very important to give back to the community that supports us,” Desiree said.

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a sophomore staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music or Penn State wrestling and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs at the Linc. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected]

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