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For My Brother: Phi Chi Theta Senior Jerry Gray Dancing For Family In THON 2024

When senior Jerry Gray first learned he would dance in THON 2024, a short phone call from Phi Chi Theta transformed into an unforgettable memory. 

“I was overcome with a lot of emotion, just knowing how much it meant to me and how much it also meant to my family,” Gray said. “I was thrilled.”

While over 700 dancers will take to the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center in search of a pediatric cancer cure, Gray will be dancing for one remarkable reason: honoring the battle of his brother, Kyle, a two-time pediatric cancer survivor. 

“One of my younger brothers was diagnosed with stage-four cancer at the age of three,” Gray said. “And, he was able to battle that and overcome that.”

A few years later as a freshman in high school, Kyle was then diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer, in April 2019. 

“When he got diagnosed with the second cancer, the bone cancer was more aggressive than his original cancer,” Gray said. “Usually the way you take care of bone cancer is by removing the bone… So essentially, the whole right leg had to be removed for him to be able to keep going and live his life the way it is.” 

Forever close as siblings and friends, the Gray family faced unimaginable challenges and formed an unbreakable bond throughout the journey. Jerry is the oldest of three brothers and makes up a tight-knit trio with younger brothers Kyle and Jonathan.

“We kind of had to pivot and find different things that we could do that would be fun,” Gray said. “So while we were once always outside playing basketball with each other, our lives kind of switched to different activities that all of us can do with each other, like Xbox and video games… They became a big thing for us to just stay doing something together.”

An exceptionally close group, the Gray family often enjoys hanging out as a family and traveling to spend quality time together. 

“He’s able to do things like Top Golf now, and then we always love going to Disney World just because usually Disney does a great job at making all their rides disability friendly,” Gray said. “Through the accommodations he’s had to make since his life-altering surgery, Disney World was a place that he could do a lot of things that he could do before he got sick.” 

Wearing the hats of both brother and best friend, Jerry was determined to find a way to dance in THON at Penn State and represent his family with pride. In first deciding to come to the university, THON was a key part of the decision-making process.

“From seeing all the work of people at Penn State, honestly, it was probably a big driving force in why I came here,” Gray said. “It is truly something special..being from a family that’s gone through that. It definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.” 

Since coming to Penn State from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Gray earned the opportunity to dance his senior year through involvement with business fraternity, Phi Chi Theta. After joining in the fall of his sophomore year, Gray became an active leader in the fraternity’s THON efforts. 

“As a pledge, I was a family relations pledge class chair, and then through that, I realized I wanted to get involved on a bigger level, like within the org,” Gray said. “Then last year and this year, I’ve had the privilege and the honor to be able to represent my business fraternity along with a few other members of our team.”

As a dancer this year, Gray will be joined by six members of Phi Chi Theta and looks forward to spending the weekend with these close friends. 

“They’ve truly made my college experience something that I never really imagined it would be,” Gray said.  “I can never give enough thanks to the people in my organization who put me in the position to do that. I will always be indebted to them for giving me these moments that I’ll cherish forever.”

Looking forward to the weekend ahead, Gray is particularly excited about reuniting with his family on the floor of THON. The moment is destined to become the memory of a lifetime. 

“I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve, so I’ll probably shed a few tears,” Gray said. “Not of sadness, but just of happiness [and] excitement. Just being able to share that moment with them… It’ll definitely be something that I don’t ever forget and won’t ever forget.”

Ready to represent his family’s story, Gray will hold his family top of mind and close in heart throughout the weekend. 

“It’s another thing to experience it, and it’s another thing to have to go through it,” Gray said. “People don’t know how hard it is until they have to walk through it… Seeing all the work that people at THON do… It is something that is really special.”

With gratitude motivating the full 46, THON 2024 marks both a full-circle moment and a dream come true for Gray. 

“I really can’t thank everyone enough for everything that they’ve done for me and my family,” Gray said.

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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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