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‘The Best Full-Circle Moment’: Dancing In THON A Surreal Experience For Emily Grill

Emily Grill has been involved with fundraising efforts ever since middle school. Through her senior year of high school, she was a part of Relay for Life, eventually becoming a leader within the club.

Emily never knew much about THON growing up, but after touring Penn State and learning about the philanthropy, she instantly knew Happy Valley would be the place she would call home.

Emily immediately made her impact on THON during her freshman year. In the spring of 2021, she was elected as the family relations chair of her sorority Sigma Delta Tau. She served this role for the 2022 edition of dance marathon. 

THON has remained a constant in Emily’s life for the past four years, but it impacted her more than she ever could’ve imagined when her younger brother Michael was diagnosed with parosteal osteosarcoma. 

It was an ordinary day at the gym when Michael, a senior in high school at the time, began to experience a strange feeling in his left leg. It was later determined that he had a tumor in his knee that required imminent surgery.

“I’ve been involved with cancer stuff and THON for a majority of my life,” Emily said. “Never in a million years did I think it would happen to someone like my brother.” 

This eye-opening moment served as a lesson to Emily and many close to her: cancer knows no boundaries.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do with your life; it can happen to anyone,” she said.

Fortunately, Michael got the tumor removed, and the area from his knee to shin is now fully metal. While standing for prolonged periods of time is still difficult, that doesn’t stop him from doing the things he loves. 

Michael is now a freshman at Penn State, and while Dear Old State was his first choice before his diagnosis, going to a university with a philanthropy like THON makes it an even more meaningful decision. Emily believes that her brother coming to Happy Valley was “meant to be in a way.”

Dancing in THON became a dream realized for Emily, and her brother’s story makes it extra special.

“I just know this weekend, that whenever I feel pain in my leg, I’m just going to channel him,” Emily said. “This is how he feels every day, and it’s not going to ever change for him.”

While Michael doesn’t know what to expect from THON Weekend, Emily couldn’t be more excited to share it with him and her family. She cannot wait to be on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center for all 46 hours — something she’s worked toward since arriving on campus four years ago.

“It really doesn’t feel real,” she said.

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About the Author

Jamie Lynch

Jamie is a first-year DUS student from Chappaqua, NY. He loves to swim and is a member of the club team here at Penn State. Jamie is also in the Schreyer Honors College, and wishes there was an advanced course in college football fandom (scored 118/133 on the mascot quiz). Avid ping-pong player, dairy lover, and has met two U.S. Presidents, in case anyone was wondering. If you have anything to share, or want to debate the AP Poll with someone, email [email protected] or reach out on instagram @jamie.ly3.

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