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Four For Four: Justin Stempowski Rounds Out Family Of Dancers At THON 2024

For senior business management student Justin Stempowski, his THON story began in 1991 in the White Building.

Justin’s parents, Brian and Deb, danced for their respective organizations in 1991, helping to play a part in raising just shy of $1 million For The Kids.

Thirty years later, Justin’s older sister Jessica continued the family affair and danced virtually as part of THON 2021’s socially-distant dance marathon from her off-campus apartment.

With encouragement from his family and household heritage in THON, it was a no-brainer for Justin to find his way onto the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center as a dancer eventually.

Attending Penn State was always the goal for Justin, and the path laid by his parents and sister made the choice to attend school in Happy Valley easier than ever.

“I think my love for Penn State always stayed,” Justin said. “Any school I went to, I always compared it to Penn State, and none of them exceeded those expectations. Eventually, I got in, and now I’m the last in my family to check that mark and graduate from Penn State.”

Though he enrolled at Dear Old State in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Justin’s transition from Annapolis to State College was eased by his sister who was just minutes away on campus.

Weekly sibling dinners at Jessica’s house encouraged Justin to join Phi Gamma Nu (PGN), a co-ed business fraternity in which many of Jessica’s friends belonged. Justin knew his home was within PGN, and he immediately made an impact by falling into place within the fraternity’s THON fundraising corps.

He had experience as a hospitailty committee member as a freshman and sophomore but wanted to deepen his involvement to connect with Four Diamonds families and fundraising.

“I wanted to see that other side and get a little closer with our families,” Justin said. “We always had a lot of involvement with our families, but I kind of wanted to be the one before the numbers, thinking of those fundraising ideas and helping implement and facilitate them.”

From his role as a merchandise chair to ultimately becoming PGN’s inaugral THON Outreach Chair, Justin’s work with the fraternity was always geared toward making impacts on families and the possibilty of doing that from THON 2024.

“After THON last year, being with the dancers on the floor, seeing all of our families, seeing how kids can just be kids, I wanted to spend all my time on the floor, and I had in the back of my head that my mom, my dad, and my sister all did it, and all they could talk about was how much fun they had,” Justin said. “I knew this year, this was the last box I wanted to check.”

Justin found out he was chosen by PGN to dance in THON 2024 in December, finally checking the box as the last member of the Stempowski family to attend Penn State and dance in THON. Knowing he put his best effort forth and was rewarded with the ultimate gift of dancing, Justin relayed the news to his parents and sister in an emotional phone call that encapuslated the family’s 33-year journey as THON supporters.

While Brian and Deb had broad, important advice for Justin ahead of THON Weekend, Jessica offered more nitty-gritty advice to help cover every base needed for a successful 46 hours.

“Their main advice is just to enjoy the moment,” Justin said. “Be there. Be present. It’s going to be hard, but you’ll be able to get through because the pain is temporary… My sister told me to buy this brand of compression socks and pack these toiletries and when to change my shoes and when to roll out my feet with a tennis ball. She’s kind of been the person there for me along with my parents.”

With comforting, logical advice from his closest family members to the foundations created within PGN, Justin was overcome with gratitude for the people behind the scenes that led him to the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center for THON 2024.

“I have made the best friends I could ever ask for, and I’m going to have the strongest support system at THON this year, dancing with the best dancers. We have the best THON team. I’m really glad I did it, and I’m really glad I listened to my sister for once.”

The efforts of Justin and the brothers of PGN led to $226,309.89 raised by the organization and a No. 2 distinction out of all general organizations in THON fundraising.

To Justin, reaching targeted fundraising initiatives is paramount, but nothing is more meaningful than playing a part in the community that THON uplifts through PGN’s support of the Akright, Miller, Shapiro, and Eichelberger families.

“THON is a community,” Stempowski said. “I think that community is a big reason why THON is so successful because having that community then provides the support and provides the strength that provides the hope. It’s allowing these kids to dream, and their dreams are actually becoming a reality.”

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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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