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‘I THON Because I Can’: Penn State Senior Dancing In Honor Of Close Friend

Like many other students, senior Anika Sinha never saw herself attending Penn State. Originally from Pittsburgh, Sinha said that too many people from her high school came to Happy Valley. However, admission to the Schreyer Honors College and a visit to campus junior year changed her outlook.

Sinha’s high school held a mini-THON, but she was never deeply involved. When she entered her freshman year at Penn State, Sinha’s older cousin was gearing up to serve as an operations captain. Hearing about all of the things that her cousin got to participate in encouraged Sinha to get more involved in the organization.

Inspired by her cousin, she was in OPP her freshman year. Like so many others, that year was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so she couldn’t feel the full effects of the magic of THON. In her sophomore year, things quickly turned around. Sinha participated in a Dancer Relations committee and got involved with Alpha Kappa Psi, one of Penn State’s business fraternities.

“I loved how people in AKPsi were so passionate about THON,” Sinha shared. Three of the THON 2024 executive committee members are AKPsi members, in fact.

After seeing things from the view of a committee, Sinha decided she wanted to change things up and figure out how to get involved more with the families. She became one of four THON chairs of AKPsi in her junior year and cites the other three chairs with helping to shape her THON experience into what it has become today.

Sinha gushed about her organization’s paired families, the Rodriguezes and Sweitzers. The group is close with the Rodriguezes and holds Zooms with the family regularly while also hanging out with them at events like the Family Carnival. AKPsi was recently paired with the Sweitzers and is looking forward to getting to know them better.

Dancing in THON felt like the natural next step for Sinha after being involved in a committee and serving as a THON chair for her organization, and she couldn’t be more excited to take the floor.

“I just am so energized by everyone else’s passion. We here at Penn State take it for granted that this is just the thing that we do. This is a crazy thing that we do… It’s going to be the most amazing atmosphere,” Sinha said.

While her involvement with and appreciation for the families served as a big motivator for dancing in THON 2024, the final push came from Sinha’s close friend Laura Bealer.

Bealer was a nursing student at Penn State and one of Sinha’s very close friends. When Bealer was three years old, she was diagnosed with liver cancer. Years later, in her sophomore year at Penn State, she had metastasis to her liver and a mass impacting her pancreas, which was much more severe than what she had dealt with previously.

Despite undergoing treatment, Bealer attended THON 2023 and stood in the stands with AKPsi.

“Even though she was in so much pain, she came to THON last year. I just think that that was like a godsend,” Sinha said.

For a while, Bealer seemed to be getting better, and Sinha said they anticipated she was going to soon ring the bell. Unfortunately, Bealer’s health began to decline rapidly, and she passed away in July.

“It was definitely a wake-up call for all of us. I never entertained the idea that she would not be with us anymore… We hear about these amazing success stories, but there’s so many stories that don’t end well,” Sinha explained.

Bealer will undoubtedly be in Sinha’s mind and heart all weekend. She shared that she thinks many people will dance in Bealer’s honor this weekend.

Bealer was so much more than her battle with cancer, though. Sinha expressed her appreciation for Bealer’s personality.

“Being unapologetically herself was something that I admired so much of her. I think that that courage to do that translated a lot into her courage to just say fuck you to cancer… She was such an old soul, and very much cared,” Sinha shared.

When reflecting on her THON journey, Sinha has a simple but powerful statement.

“I THON because I can, because I’m alive, and because I’m breathing, and I have two working legs, and my health is good… Life is so precious. As a 21-year-old college student, I think that my life is indestructible, and I can do whatever I want, and I’ll survive. That’s just not always the case. If you have the opportunity to do anything with this life we’re given, I just think that you should THON because you can.”

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a senior studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is fueled by dangerous amounts of caffeine and dreams of smashing the patriarchy. Any questions or discussion about Taylor Swift’s best songs can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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