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Former THON Dancer, Alumna Kayla Nakonechni Passes Away After Cancer Battle

by on October 14, 2015 11:00 AM

Penn State lost a proud Nittany Lion.

Kayla Nakonechni, the THON dancer turned THON child that inspired the Penn State community with her cancer battle, passed away.

Friends and family confirmed the death on social media. 

Nakonechni's THON journey started when she raised $13,000 to independently dance at THON 2013.

In less than half a year, she went from dancing on the THON floor for 46 hours in the fight against pediatric cancer to being a Four Diamonds child.

Following multiple seizures, Nakonechni was diagnosed with stage 4 Astrocytoma, a type of brain cancer.

From the Beaver Stadium sidelines to the Bryce Jordan Center stands, #TeamKayla became a familiar sight on campus as Nakonechni's battle with cancer was supported by the university community. At one point, Old State Clothing Co. began selling #TeamKayla t-shirts in their State College store to support her medical bills. Nakonechni was even added to the Inspiration Mural by artist Michael Pilato on Heister Street.

She graced the cover of Valley Magazine in 2014, as the student-run publication profiled Nakonechni and her optimistic attitude. As her mantra went, "Life is tough, but I'm tougher." That was also fittingly the name of her personal blog, where she chronicled her cancer battle.

The most recent update on Nakonechni's medical condition came on Oct. 3, when she returned home after three weeks in the hospital.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all family and friends of Kayla.

Zach Berger is the managing editor of He graduated from Penn State University in 2014 with a degree in print journalism. Zach enjoys writing about a variety of topics ranging from football to government, music, and everything in between.
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