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Freshmen Reflect On First THON Experience

The 46 hours have come and gone, and for Penn State freshmen, that means they experienced their first THON as students. From the first line dance to their first Pep Rally, the newcomers got their first dose of the Bryce Jordan Center on THON Weekend.

Our freshman staffers reflected on their experiences after being a part of their first THON in 2024.

Ally Eaton

It’s hard to find the words to describe a weekend as special as THON 2024. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed louder, cried harder, and danced longer than I did this past weekend. I was the most exhausted I ever was in my life, yet the most happy. Getting to experience such a memorable 46 hours from the stands, the floor, and press row gave me such an all-encompassing viewpoint. Squeezing my favorite dancers and encouraging them while also interacting with so many THON families was so special and something I will never forget.

Ryan Smith

I had the honor and privilege to be a dancer at this year’s THON alongside my older sister, Shannon. From the electrifying atmosphere to the heartfelt moments, dancing in THON illuminated the unmatched spirit of Penn State and the City of THON.”

In the midst of the Bryce Jordan Center, surrounded by laughter and joy, I found myself creating unforgettable experiences. Whether it was playing games with the kids, learning the line dance, or having a dance party in the middle of night with my best friends and DJ DOSK, each memory was one I will never ever forget.

But it wasn’t just about the festivities; it was about strength, hope, and perseverance of the kids. Sharing the dance floor with my incredible friends in Phi Gamma Nu, shedding a few tears while reading dancer mail, and rallying together for the total reveal were all highlights that encapsulated the true essence of THON. As the clock ticked past 46 hours, and I finally took a seat, I knew that these memories would forever be etched in my mind.

And as I look ahead to THON 2025, I am filled with anticipation for the moments yet to come, knowing THON will continue to be some of the best memories of my Penn State experience. My first THON experience was nothing short of remarkable. I created memories I will never forget and made a few new friends along the way. For The Kids, always.

Michael Siroty

My first THON was an unforgettable experience. I didn’t know exactly what to expect before going into the Bryce Jordan Center for the first time, but it was awesome. Despite THON being 46 hours, there was never any downtime during it. I am so grateful to have seen and enjoyed the concerts that happened over the three days from so many different people. Plus, what’s better than high-fiving Matt Brown after every line dance? Nothing. On top of it all, the Onward State TikTok went viral during THON. 

All this fun was shared for a great cause, and I’m so thankful for Onward State allowing me to cover THON. I can’t wait for the next three years of dancing For The Kids! 

Ben Rosenbaum

THON was truly a special experience that I am so honored to be a part of. As a freshman, I wasn’t too sure what to expect at THON this year. I’ve heard stories and understood the general idea of THON, but I was still new to the experience. I joined a Rules and Regulations committee and was surrounded by really good, positive, encouraging people who inspired us all to get through the challenges of the weekend together. Not only that, but the leadership around our committee was extremely impressive, and I am so thankful to have been a member of such a nice group of people.

As for the weekend itself, it was truly incredible to see so many people come together and support each other and rally around finding a cure for childhood cancer. It opened my eyes as to what it really means to be a Penn Stater, and it was awesome to see not just students, but alumni, spectators, and the overall Penn State community, come together as one for all of those affected by childhood cancer. I was surrounded by encouragement, inspiration, and determination all weekend. Whether it was Dancer Relations supporting dancers, spectators supporting spectators, people supporting families, it was really amazing to see.

Not only that, but Penn State raised a record-breaking $16,955,683.63 to fight childhood cancer! Absolutely incredible, and I cannot wait for next year! We Are FTK.

Sarah Nasif

Coming into my first year at Penn State, I only knew of THON based on pictures surfaced on social media and personal experiences upperclassmen on campus had shared with me. As an out-of-state student from Wisconsin, there truly was nothing comparable to this event, and I didn’t make this realization until I first stepped into the stands of the BJC. Watching as hundreds of students and visitors stormed the gates of the BJC, I knew this weekend was going to be electric, and this remained true. In THON’s primary hours, the countdown of uplifting the dancers resonated heavily with me. Watching as hundreds of dancers got to their feet to dance for 46 hours straight was extremely admirable. I was flooded with pride at this same sight as I watched familiar faces from my own organization take this stand.

As I was told, there truly was no concept of time at THON, as I stood for so many hours for different lengths of time at different times of day. However, watching as the BJC was packed with thousands of other students doing the same was astonishing. Coming to the Final Four, I experienced a whirlwind of emotions, in which I was not prepared for and probably should’ve packed tissues in advance. Hearing stories from Four Diamonds families was emotional, yet inspiring, and made me recognize the beauty in the philanthropic efforts of the Penn State student body.

Toward the end of THON, I was only amazed when I saw that final total reveal. $16.9 million was a truly unfathomable value. $16.9 million all For The Kids.

For me, THON was a joyous, emotion-filled experience, incomparable to any other. While I was unsure of what it would be like to attend THON, besides the fatigue I knew would hit me, I can now say I am thankful for choosing Penn State and for allowing me to experience such an impactful event. After my first THON, I feel motivated, inspired, grateful, and prideful.

Leah Meyer

I am not quite sure what I expected THON to be like, but it was definitely way better than I could have ever imagined. The purpose behind THON is remarkable, and I was truly in awe once I made my way into the BJC. I was surrounded by so many people who showed so much love and passion for such a significant cause.

I consider it a privilege to have just been in that environment for only a couple of hours, but I wish that I could’ve stayed much longer. The people who I witnessed dancing for a cause with so much determination were truly an inspiration. I hope to be able to do that at least once while being here at Penn State and continue to get more involved in THON as a whole. I am proud to be a part of a university that participates in a life-changing experience like this.

Collin Ward

I don’t think there is any way to imagine what THON is truly like before actually experiencing it in person. As much as I had heard about the event and how much fun it is to be a part of it, the sheer togetherness felt while in the BJC is something that can’t be described. From doing the line dance to singing along to different artists and DJs with the rest of the crowd, I had an absolute blast.

Along with the fun, sometimes it gets emotional but having the whole Penn State community support makes even the tough times memorable. I know that I was there for a small percentage of time compared to the dancers and some of the others in the crowd, but I was pleased to learn that even after a long shift overnight, I never really wanted to leave.

Ericka Apolskis

I went into THON with little insight into what the full experience would be like. Before becoming a student, the only time I had ever heard about THON was during my tour, but at the time, I had no idea how much of an impact it truly makes. I had always been told it was going to be a life-changing experience, and it genuinely was. No other time would you have been able to tell me after being up for basically 2.5 days with only three hours of sleep I was fully jumping and dancing to a band called Go Go Gadjet in the upper bowl of the BJC. Experiencing THON both on the floor and in the stands was truly an unrivaled opportunity. It was so fun capturing the emotions of dancers and performers throughout the 46 hours. It didn’t matter if it was 7 p.m. on Friday or 2 a.m. on Sunday, you could truly see why these dancers were there — singing and dancing their hearts out all For The Kids.

I truly love how the committees running the event kept the energy up throughout and somehow always knew when morale may have been low because the next thing I would hear would be “Dancer Relations captains to the stage” and everyone would get together for the line dance. I don’t think I ever did it right once, but I am in true awe of the people who put the dance together because I am still repeating it in my head.

I absolutely cannot wait for next year THON, it definitely will have some huge shoes to fill to match up to this year, but I have no doubts that my expectations will be exceeded even more than they already are.

Jess Farhat

I wasn’t really sure what to expect walking into the BJC Friday night. My high school did mini-THON, so I came to Penn State with the general idea of what THON really was. Every time I entered the BJC, something new and exciting was happening. I never thought I would be able to participate in THON the way I did this year, but I am truly grateful I got to experience it with such wonderful people. I was lucky enough to have some awesome shifts that let me cover most of the amazing things that went on during the weekend.

Watching everyone come together to fight for a cure is truly life-changing. When it came down to the Final Four, I could really see how tired everyone was, but the energy inside the BJC never went away. Looking around as the final total was shown, I really understood why everyone was there. I will forever remember the impact my first THON had on me, and I can’t wait to experience many more!

Alex Smith

My first THON experience was definitely one for the books. I had never experienced anything like THON before, and I am so grateful that I still have three THONs to attend as a student. Although my weekend was cut short on Saturday after getting a fever, I loved working the graveyard shift for Onward State with some of my best friends. I can’t wait for next year.

Jamie Lynch

I have known about THON for nearly my entire life. Every February, I would sit down in front of my mom’s laptop, turn on 46LIVE, and do my best to learn the line dance from home. But attending in person this year, for nearly 40 hours, was an experience that is difficult to describe. Being in the BJC, surrounded by Four Diamonds families, dancers, and fellow Nittany Lions was truly magical. During Family Hour, everyone standing with arms around shoulders and crying in unison was a powerful moment that highlighted the meaning behind the marathon. I will never forget the feelings that I encountered during those 60 minutes. And the Go Go Gadjet concert at the end was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen: the amount of energy in that building, after almost two days worth of standing, was indescribable. Looking back on it, I can safely say that it was one of the best weekends of my life. I hope to be able to be a dancer one year before I graduate and continue showing support for the kids battling pediatric cancer. And, of course, master a new line dance.

Kayla Wakeley

THON is truly something you have to experience in person to really grasp how incredible the event is. THON was one of the many reasons I chose to go to Penn State, and now that I have finally experienced my first one, I can confidently say that choosing Penn State was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I didn’t know too much about THON, so when the dance captains came out to do the line dance, I was definitely caught off guard, but still joined in with everyone else as I tried to remember what felt like a million steps.

What blew me away was the final reveal of the total for THON 2024. Hearing the BJC go from complete silence to loud cheers gave me goosebumps. THON provides an insane amount of emotions. From crying to laughing to cheering, I loved my first THON experience and can’t wait to do it all over again next year!

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About the Author


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