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Morgan Weindel

My Freshman Year THON Reaction

During the Spring 2020 semester, before coronavirus rapidly spread, I was lucky enough to attend THON 2020 in person. It was my last time being in a big group of people, and it was one of the most memorable weekends of my life.


I wrote this reflection after I attended my first THON. Since THON 2021 will be so different, I want to share my experience so that freshmen could live vicariously through me, and this article will have to do until THON can one day be in person again.


I had no idea what to expect going into Penn State’s biggest student-run philanthropy event for the first time. I heard so many students talk so positively about the experience, but they didn’t give me any specific details about it. I just knew that I should be excited. 


I was part of the group in my organization that went in during the Entrance Plan. So, I got to be in the Bryce Jordan Center when THON officially started. Watching all the dancers stand up and start their 46-hour journey was a goose-bump moment. 


From the beginning and throughout the whole weekend, the BJC was so crowded. I was impressed by all the Penn State students’ dedication. The stands were practically full for all of the hours I was there, too. 


Within the first four hours, everything was planned out so nicely. The activities had a perfect amount of time between them, so there was no time for boredom. They introduced all of the students in charge of the weekend, and they also taught us the line dance.


At first, the line dance was very overwhelming, because I did not expect it to be an eight-minute dance. It was so creative, though, and the Dancer Relation Captions did a great job teaching it to us step-by-step. After doing it a couple of times at the top of each hour, everyone got most of it down. 


Heading into the later portion of the night, exciting guests performed for anyone there during that time. It was like a mini-concert in which Daya and Cash Cash performed. I had a ton of fun at both of these performances, the pep rally and the Final Four hours. 


I was fortunate to be standing with my best friends in PRSSA for all the hours I was in the BJC. We had so much fun together, and they helped to make the time go by faster. Standing for multiple hours at once while running on a limited amount of sleep was a bit challenging. 


However, the BJC was so loud and bright that it wasn’t too hard to keep yourself awake. 


It helped me and my friends to go on walks around the inside of the BJC. These walks allowed us to move around, and they took away the constant pain in our feet. They were also fun because we saw other people we knew while walking around. Seeing these friends I hadn’t seen in a while was a great distraction. 


I also got the opportunity to go onto the floor during the early hours of Sunday morning. It meant downtime for the dancers, so many of them were struggling. Seeing our group’s dancers was so much fun, though. Their spirits were still high, knowing that they were doing such an amazing thing.


I was impressed with the number of activities and unique treatments they had set up for the dancers in the back hallways of the BJC, too. There were huge snack tables, decorated picture rooms, and a whole massage station. They made sure the dancers had special treatment to get through the entire 46 hours of no sitting or sleeping.


Overall, I had so much fun at THON 2020, and I will look forward to our next in-person THON every day. 


My advice to freshmen for THON 2021 would be to make the absolute best out of it. I know it will be different, but try to focus on all of the incredible people involved in the life-changing event. We are all doing it for the THON families and making a difference in their children’s treatment journeys. 


THON is such a humbling experience, and I know the students in charge of it this year will make it that way — even in an online setting. I am so thankful to be involved in THON again this year, and I encourage everyone to play a part in it.

Marlena is a third-year in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State where she is majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Psychology and Digital Media Trends and Analytics. She is so grateful to be at Penn State and loves learning more about communications, her peers, and herself every day. She hopes to use this knowledge and her own positive outlook to help others in any way she can.
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