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THON: An Amazing and Inspiring Experience

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26 February 2010

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THON Alumni:


Thon 2010 article - Josh
Thon 2010 article - Josh

Josh Carpenter - Life Sciences '09

  • After one alumni dancer had just stood on his feet for 46 hours, he rested his head on his pillow only to feel like he missed THON. “I just kept having images of THON in my head and having THON withdrawal,” said Josh Carpenter, a 2009 graduate from Chalfont, Pennsylvania.

    Josh danced his senior year representing Kappa Theta Epsilon, an engineering and science co-op honor society. Before graduating with a life sciences degree, he was a member, secretary and treasurer of Kappa Theta Epsilon throughout his nine semesters at Penn State. Josh had co-ops at GlaxoSmithKline, a research-based pharmaceutical company, and McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a Johnson and Johnson company.

    Although Josh considered dancing in THON for a while before committing, he said the final rewards outweighed the physical tiredness. “I’m glad I did because it was the most challenging part of my life, but it was also the most fun I’ve ever had,” he said.


    Before THON, Josh said he was more excited than nervous while waiting with his partner. “I remember the two hours we were in the IM building right before thon. We were all just getting pumped up,” he said, “The human tunnel was awesome.”

    Besides interacting with the kids, Josh said his most memorable experience throughout THON weekend was the beginning of the finale when many families, friends and students arrived for the final four hours. He said, “I was fighting back tears. I just saw so many people supporting us in awesome, brightly colored shirts.”

    Since graduating, Josh has been busily looking for a job. But one ordinary grocer-shopping trip in his hometown sparked some great THON memories. “It was neat to see THON canners again, especially near my hometown,” he said, “It was a nice reminder of what I used to do.”


THON 2010 article - Jolene
THON 2010 article - Jolene
Jolene Mariotti - Biology '07

  • Another alumni dancer experienced many THON “firsts” in her dance marathon participation. It was the first time THON was held at the Bryce Jordan Center, the first time THON was 46 instead of 48 hours, and the first time the Kappa Theta Epsilon co-op honor society participated in THON.

    Jolene Mariotti, a 2007 Penn State graduate from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, represented Kappa Theta Epsilon in THON 2007. She joined KTE her junior year and became the president for her senior year. Upon graduating with a biology degree, Jolene was accepted to medical school at Ohio State University. Jolene is currently doing a fellowship with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

    Jolene’s research in Nashville is with pediatric leukemia. “I’ve always had kind of an interest in it. THON is just another outlet for me to contribute,” she said. Jolene feels that between her schooling, research and THON, her passion for pediatrics and leukemia has really come full circle.

    Jolene feels the two worlds of a dance marathon and science can come together for one common goal to fight childhood cancer. “I think people that dance in THON and have a science background can really appreciate the meaning behind it,” she said, “They understand the disease.”

    Jolene said she was excited before THON and during THON, but there was one time she felt really tired. Right around that time, Mail Call was brought to her and she had 40 letters and packages from her family. “One of the cards had a voice recording. It was my little sister saying, ‘Go Jolene!’ I saved them,” she said.

    For Jolene, the best part of THON 2007 was a game where captains brought out the four-diamonds kids. “Every time we hugged a child we gave them a piece of yarn from yarn necklaces that we had on,” she said, “The little kids were just running around hugging everyone.”

    Jolene said she would absolutely dance in THON again if she had the chance. “I don’t think there is anything I’d do differently. It was an amazing experience,” she said, “But, if I did do it again, I would need more calf massages.”


THON 2010 article - Phil
THON 2010 article - Phil
Phil Miller - Life Sciences '00

  • A 2000 Penn State graduate, now finishing up a fellowship in neuromuscular medicine and osteopathic manipulation, said the dancing in THON was just one way to fulfill a boy’s childhood dream of one day finding a cure for cancer.

    After having two co-ops relating to his dream of going into medicine, Philip Miller danced to represent the Kappa Theta Epsilon co-op honor society in 200, its year of induction. “I thought it was for a noble cause,” he said, “It seemed like the right thing to do.”

    Phil said THON’s goals and ideals matched with his personality along with his passion for science and medicine. “I have a lot of energy. I’ll do crazy things to get people’s attention,” he said.

    Phil thinks the money THON raises is absolutely going toward a great cause looking at it through his background and field of study. “From a medical standpoint, it just costs so much do to the things we do to treat patients, research, or whatever it may be,” he said, “That money could be used for so many things on so many levels.”

    Although Phil has been studying medicine in the United States and Romania over the past ten years and hasn’t been able to come back to any dance marathons, he recognizes and honors how THON has changed. “Thon physically just got bigger. More people are donating and contributing. More celebrities are getting involved. The word is getting out there,” he said.

    Phil could only describe his THON experience in one word: magical. “How many times can we get a whole community get together for one common goal? Someone you don’t even think about on the street is dancing beside you and is your best buddy,” he said.

    His most memorable THON experience still brings a smile to his face when talking about it today. “I remember playing with a girl who was laughing, and the mother came up to me and said ‘thank you’ because this girl has not smiled in weeks,” Phil said. “Its just so fantastic. There is such a magic about it. “


THON Current Students:


THON 2010 article - Stephanie
THON 2010 article - Stephanie
Stephanie Huff - Biology major

  • For this Biology Club dancer, her entire THON experience has reassured her of what she wants to do upon graduating Penn State. “Being part of THON has inspired me to reach my goals of going to med school,” Stephanie Huff said, “In the future, it will definitely be up to scientists to research and study to find cures for all different types of cancer.”

    Stephanie said that on her way into the Bryce Jordan Center, she was way more excited than nervous and that carried on through the 46-hour marathon. “During THON, I was just happy to be in the environment and see the kids,” she said. 

    One of Stephanie’s favorite parts was seeing the kids perform. “When they had the kids on the stage for the talent show and fashion show, it was just really cute to see them up there,” she said, “They got really into it.”

    Even though all that Stephanie wanted to do was sleep after the final total was announced, she said she was so happy she danced in THON 2010. “I was definitely very tired, but it was so worth it. I would do it again if I had the chance,” she said.

    Stephanie felt that when the final total was raised, it culminated the whole event for her. She said, “It proved why we were there. It motivated me to be more involved with THON next year.”


THON 2010 Article - Michele
THON 2010 Article - Michele
Michele Sassano - Biobehavioral major

  • Although one Biology Club dancer kept a smile on her face the whole weekend, she said there is one moment from THON that especially raised her spirits. Michele Sassano said it was late Saturday night—or at least later than kids were used to staying out—when she saw a little girl rummaging through one of the dancer bags. Toys and games fell out of the bag, and the little girl asked Michele to join her to play with Play-Dough. After many minutes of playing, the little girl said she didn’t want the Play-Dough anymore and wanted Michele to have it. “I kept it and played with it the rest of the weekend,” Michele said, “It was really uplifting.”

    Michele describes her THON experience as absolutely amazing. Before going to the Bryce Jordan Center, however, she said she was nervous a few times throughout the day on Friday. That quickly changed. “I was just overwhelmed with excitement,” Michele said, “When I got there, I could only think, ‘Wow, this is really going to be something great.’”

    Michele said she had a great support system from her friends on the floor, her family and her moraler. “I got through the entire weekend really with no problems,” she said.

    But Michele wasn’t only receiving support; she was giving it out to those around her. “I kept a smile on my face the whole weekend,” Michelle said. She said everyone who came to visit questioned how she was still smiling and so strong in the middle of the nights. “I just said that being there and having that experience, you just kind of get a smile on and keep going with it,” she said.

    Michele felt that one of the best parts of THON was how a group of her friends that were also dancers and all of their moralers formed larger to support one another, lean on each other, and spend hours on their feet together for the kids and their families.

    But even though Michele supported so many struggling families during THON weekend, her experiences with cancer also hit close to home. “My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. That’s why I got involved with THON,” Michele said, “I knew I wanted it to be a really big part of my life.”


THON 2010 Article - Andrew
THON 2010 Article - Andrew
Andrew Shoemaker - Biology major

  • The service chair for Science LionPride, Andrew Shoemaker, said he could not narrow down one favorite part of THON even though many people asked him about it. He said he enjoyed every minute of all of the neat activities, such as live Wheel of Fortune and human Jenga, just to name a few.

    Andrew said that in addition to wanting a challenge, his main reason for dancing was for the kids. “We played with a lot of bubbles with the kids and there were tons of squirt gun fights and bouncy balls,” he said. He was most looking forward to the interaction, and he said he was lucky to have that opportunity through Science LionPride.

    Andrew especially remembers one ten-year-old boy who lip-synched on stage dressed in a Men in Black suit. Later, the boy told his story on that same stage about how he is in his third time through cancer treatment. “That just really hits you,” Andrew said. Andrew said he felt motivated to stand 46 hours since that boy has been going through treatments for years. The boy didn’t want himself or his father to come up to the stage to talk about bad things. The boy only wanted to say, “Go beat cancer! I want to worry about video games, friends, and family more than the cancer.”

    Andrew was especially thankful for his moraler, his partner Sasha Slipak, and Sasha’s moraler. “They supported us and kept us going the entire weekend. They were always upbeat and that kept us going,” he said.

    Andrew knew that keeping a positive outlook was essential to fully engage in the experience. “During thon, I kept pretty excited. I always kept moving, jumping around, dancing, and playing games,” he said, “I was especially excited when there was a good band on the stage.”

    Although many fellow Penn State students supported Andrew, his parents also made the trip to support their son and THON. “They actually brought me doughnuts that my family makes, polish donuts made for Fat Tuesday. I absolutely love them so it was an awesome treat,” he said.

    Andrew said he is thankful for his fellow LionPride members and wants to come back to THON to support them next year. “I could look up to our section and see Science LionPride members,” he said, “That was so motivating knowing they were still there for me. So, I want to do that next year and come support everyone.”


THON 2010 Article - Sasha
THON 2010 Article - Sasha
Sasha Slipak - Math and Chemistry Major

  • After being on his feet for 46 hours, Science LionPride president fell asleep on his way home from THON during a two-minute car ride. But, Sasha Slipak’s aching body and tired eyes didn’t stop him from enjoy every second with the kids on the THON floor. “Seeing how much this actually meant for them, how happy it made them, how much it made them forget everything they’ve gone through was a really great experience,” Sashsa said, “It’s not about me this weekend.”

    THON altered Sasha’s views about why families travel to the 46-hour dance marathon. “THON changed my view of how the event of THON effects families with cancer,” Sasha said, “I thought I knew from before, but I saw how much THON actually meant to them.”

    Sasha plans on going into medical school upon graduation at Penn State and specialize in reconstructive surgery. “THON reinforced the fact that I wanted to help people,” he said.

    Slipak said his support system throughout the weekend was phenomenal. “Having my friends come and visit helped me through it the most,” he said, “Dancer mail was awesome, too.”

    But Sasha’s moraler had a different idea of perking Sasha’s spirits. “My moraler actually gave me a horse, and I rode it around for some of the weekend,” he said.

    Sasha’s parents made the trip to THON for their first time. Although his mom was worried about Sasha’s health like many mothers do, he said that his parents didn’t realize how big of an event that THON really is. “They enjoyed seeing how many people were actually involved and the impact that it has,” Sasha said.

    Once THON started, Sasha was really excited, but he did feel nervous before going to the Bryce Jordan Center. “The human tunnel isn’t as wide as I thought it would be,” he said, “But everyone was like ‘thank you, way to go, you’re doing it!’”

    Sasha’s favorite moment, however, was toward the end when two young kids started playing with him and his partner, Andrew Shoemaker. “The one came over and just started scratching my back,” Sasha smiled, “And they took pictures of us.”




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