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Bonded By More Than Blood: Senior-Freshman Sibling Duo Dancing In THON 2024

Many people this weekend are experiencing their first and last THONs, but not many of those folks can say that they’re experiencing it on the dance floor with their sibling and built-in best friend.

Shannon and Ryan Smith from Long Island, New York, are embarking on the experience of a lifetime together. For Shannon, this marks her last THON after four memorable years of involvement at Penn State.

Starting with a virtual THON during her first year on campus, Shannon tried to be as involved as she could despite the unfortunate circumstances. As she progressed through her time at Penn State, she knew it would one day be a dream come true to dance.

She became more involved with THON through her sorority, Delta Zeta, and the women’s club lacrosse team. In her sophomore year, THON returned to the Bryce Jordan Center and she took on a larger role.

“I really looked up to the club lacrosse dancers that year. I knew that that was something I wanted to do eventually,” Shannon said.

Shannon was elected as the assistant THON chair for women’s club lacrosse her junior year, and she deeply connected with the team’s new THON family. She remained at THON for almost all 46 hours last year, which has now served as the perfect preparation for this weekend.

It was after THON 2023 that Shannon really felt in her heart she wanted to IDC and become a dancer in her final THON as a student.

“When I was thinking about who I would potentially want to IDC with, I kind of thought, who better else than my brother?” she said. “I knew that it would be a special bond to have for the rest of our lives, and what better way for Ryan to get introduced to THON than to dance?”

Ryan is in a slightly different boat this weekend than his older sister. Unlike Shannon, he has never experienced a THON Weekend before, let alone even a whole year at Penn State.

“Seeing how involved Shannon was [and] just watching all of her memories through THON was one of the main reasons why I chose to come to Penn State,” Ryan said.

Now, his first time experiencing the magic of this weekend will be from the dance floor — an improbable experience for a freshman.

“I’m so excited to be able to dance my freshman year,” Ryan said. “It’s honestly surreal.”

When Shannon had originally asked Ryan if dancing his freshman year was something he would consider, the event seemed so far away. The two had originally begun the discussion of registering as an independent dancer couple early this past summer.

Toward the end of the summer, after some deliberation, the sibling duo decided to take the chance and begin the IDC process. They kicked off the majority of their fundraising at the beginning of October. 

“You hear stories about people doing it with their roommates or their best friends, but there’s not a lot of people that you hear say, ‘I did it with my sibling,’” Shannon said.

The sibling pair began to share their story with family and friends alike, aiming to accumulate enough money to reach their fundraising goal before the lottery.

“At the end of the day, we knew that even if we didn’t get chosen to dance, the money we had raised was going to a really good cause,” Shannon said. “We knew we made a huge impact with the money we raised.”

Luckily for the two, they made a huge impact and were chosen to dance. The emotions throughout the whole process and when they found out they were selected to dance were like nothing they’d experienced before.

“One thing that was really great about this experience was that we stayed really positive throughout [it],” Ryan said. “You have to go into it without getting your hopes up, but we were so proud of ourselves and what we were able to raise for the kids.”

Not only has the whole journey up to this point brought the siblings together, but it has been impactful for their family and friends as well.

“I don’t think our mom and dad have ever been more excited for us to do something together,” Ryan said.

The support they have received throughout their journey has continued to keep the pair in good spirits as they begin one of the hardest challenges: dancing for 46 hours. Excitement and nerves filled them both as they prepared, especially Ryan.

As a freshman, many of his peers just began to realize this past week how big of a deal it was for him to dance this weekend. He has received immense support from his business fraternity, Phi Gamma Nu, along with his friends.

“I think it’s starting to hit me how long 46 hours actually is,” Ryan said. “It was funny, I got a text that said, ‘46 hours until 46 hours!’ and now, that text seems like forever ago. To think that I would have been awake for that whole length of time is crazy. It’s a long time, but I’m definitely more excited than nervous.”

Already bonded by blood, the siblings are about to be bonded by the 46 hours of a lifetime. Surrounded by friends on the floor and in the stands, the two are ready to have each other’s backs the whole weekend.

“For this to be my last year and his first year is just a really cool experience,” Shannon said.

Editor’s Note: Shannon and Ryan Smith are members of Onward State.

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About the Author

Ally Eaton

Ally is a freshman public relations major from York, Pennsylvania and is one of Onward State's social media editors. She gets to write awesome feature stories and create epic content for our social media pages. Ally is a lover of country music and Trader Joe's. If you'd like to discuss March Madness or your most creative coffee order, feel free to contact her on Twitter @allyeaton31 or in her inbox [email protected].

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