Penn State Lionettes Embrace A Special Dancer During THON
The Lionettes Dance Team is well-known for its performances during Penn State athletic events, wowing the crowd with high-flying jumps and kicks choreographed to the latest pop hits.
This weekend, however, two members of the squad will trade in their blue and white uniforms for pink tutus to dance for a cure.
Nicolle Williams and Elise Potter, both seniors at Penn State, have been participating in THON since 2010. As captains for the previous four years, both are responsible for planning fundraising events and canning weekends for the Lionettes. For their final THON, they decided to finally put their dancing skills to the test during the 46 hour no-sleeping, no-sitting marathon.
Throughout the weekend, Williams and Potter will be having fun with eight-year old Ashley Fazekas, a special new member of the Lionettes. Williams says they stayed up late on Friday night just singing, dancing, and taking pictures. On Saturday, the three will take the main stage to model bright pink tutus and feather boas at Ashley's favorite event - the Fashion Show.
While performing on stage in front of hundreds is nothing new to the dancers, Williams says the show will be Ashley's time to shine.
"We walk down the runway while she's doing her thing in the center, and we kind of just stand behind her and go off what she does," Williams says.
Cancer free for the past five years, Ashley is looking forward to the day when she might take the field at Beaver Stadium, mid-court at the Bryce Jordan Center, or even the main stage during THON weekend as a member of the Lionettes.
"She has 27 big sisters, and she considers herself already on the team - which she should," says Potter. "She's got a spot."
"She has a uniform and everything, so I think she's ready to go," says Williams.
"The experience so far has been incredible," says Williams, who's studying to be an elementary school teacher. "Literally amazing. We came and we walked through the human tunnel, where we were greeted by so many of our friends, so many different athletes."
Williams and Potter are just two of ten student athletes dancing at THON. Natalie Buttinger (field hockey), Maggie Harding (women's volleyball), Christian Kaschak (men's soccer), and Erin Kehoe (women's soccer) chose to represent their teams on the floor of the BJC, in addition to Eugene Bodden, Kali Fleckenstein, Carrie Tedesco and Ally Zimmerman from the Penn State Cheer Squad.
"A lot of athletes participate not because they have to, but because they want to just do it, and represent their team," says Potter, a public relations major.
"When you believe in something, and you hold something so close to your heart, what better way to share your feelings than THON weekend doing what you love?," adds Williams.
Motivated by Ashley and the experience of THON, both dancers encourage the next generation of Lionettes to embrace the challenge of dancing and fundraising to find a cure.
"Just keep up the hard work and continue to do something you love that will make the world a better place," is the advice Williams gives.
"The hard work does pay off," stresses Potter. "It makes a difference."