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‘My Biggest Inspiration’: Hana Romanik Supporting Mother’s Cancer Research Work From THON 2024

A California native, senior animal science major Hana Romanik was unfamiliar with THON and its mission for most of her life.

Her understanding of cancer and its power, though, is everyday territory. Romanik’s mom is a cancer research nurse in Santa Monica, California, helping to make Romanik’s choice to attend Penn State to pursue animal science and continue funding aspects of her mom’s research work a simple one.

“When I heard about THON’s mission, I really wanted to get involved with it because seeing her help people — this was my way of being able to continue what she was doing out in California,” Romanik said.

Beginning her freshman year, at the height of COVID-19, Romanik pursued every opportunity Penn State laid in front of her. She joined the university’s Pre-Vet Club, the Pride of the Lions Pep Band, the Sigma Alpha professional agriculture sorority, the Small and Exotic Animal Club, and the Center for Reproductive Biology and Health Research Team.

With goals of attending veterinary school postgrad to become a large animal veterinarian, Romanik joined each organization to further her career aspirations, but THON was always in mind throughout.

Romanik dove into THON volunteering within the Pre-Vet Club, and after three years of engagement in fundraising and mission growth, she was inspired to relaunch Sigma Alpha’s THON participation that dwindled as a result of the pandemic.

“I’ve just been super interested ever since that first year trying to grow my personal THON story, get more connections to it, help as many people as I can, and be that person [my mom] is for other people,” Romanik said.

So following THON 2023, Romanik and several Sigma Alpha sisters began the work to revive the sorority’s THON venture. The chapter voted in primary, family relations, and fundraising chairs, paired with organizations, and began creating more and more relationships with THON and its wide web of support.

Throughout her efforts to strengthen her involvement with THON within the organizations she’s passionate about, Romanik’s mom’s quest to cure cancer was at the core of her endeavors.

“Every day, she’d come home, and she’d have an amazing story to tell,” Romanik said. “Obviously, there’s some hard days. Nurses work really hard to keep everybody as positive as possible. I think that energy is definitely something that I wanted to radiate when I was coming to college.”

Since the inception of Sigma Alpha’s THON pursuits last year, the group has worked toward raising enough money to enter the dancer lottery. Not only did Romanik and the sisters of Sigma Alpha raise enough funds to toss names into the dancer lottery, they were also selected to dance in THON 2024.

Romanik and her big, Sigma Alpha President Meagan Marinelli, got the news they were chosen to dance and began celebrations and preparations right away to jump into action for the 46-hour dance marathon ahead.

“As soon as I got the email that Meagan and I had been chosen, I called my mom and immediately started crying,” Romanik said. “I was actually in the HUB.”

Romanik and Marinelli’s stories overlap quite a bit, and the two are each identical twins and triplets, respectively, and aspiring large animal veterinarians. The bond they share is only strengthened by their similarities, and the passions they hold as a pair are united by THON’s efforts.

“It’s definitely cool to have that sort of connection with somebody, and I feel like having a powerful duo can definitely help get more information out about THON,” Romanik said.

Romanik and Marinelli dove headfirst into THON Weekend with the support of Romanik’s mom and her work as the duet danced for 46 hours in the Bryce Jordan Center en route to just shy of $17 million For The Kids.

“My mom’s definitely one of my biggest inspirations for coming here and just being able to see the impact she’s had on other people’s lives,” Romanik said.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a junior journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is Onward State's managing editor. She also talks about awesome stuff on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese and Kevin Jonas. If you'd like to share your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @keeleylammm or send your best joke to her email [email protected].

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