It is a lot of Penn Staters’ dream to meet the love of their life at THON. The lights, the kids, the good cause — I mean, who wouldn’t dream of meeting someone with the same passion FTK they have? For most people this is a fantasy that, sadly, never comes to realization, but for one couple, this was its picture perfect dream come true.
At the age of 12, Katie Austin was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at Hershey Medical Center. Shortly after the diagnosis, Katie was introduced to the Penn State Dance Marathon. Seven years later Katie was a freshman at Penn State and recently considered “cured” from her cancer. She soon began her journey as a student and THON volunteer at Penn State. Katie was selected her freshman year to serve as a Family Relations Captain for the Dance Marathon, which was the first year THON moved to its current home at the BJC.
In the meantime, during the THON 2007 season, Mike Ducker was continuing his THON journey as a Morale Captain. The following year, Mike was selected to serve as the Morale Overall. After a year of dedication to a cause close to his heart, he began interviewing and then transition to the THON 2009 Overall Committee. While leaving the interviews for Morale Overall candidates, Mike spotted a girl that he was acquainted with but didn’t really know. He shot her a thumbs up and wished her luck in her interview for the Family Relations Overall position.
Those were the first words spoken between Mike and Katie, and as Mike likes to say, “That good luck and thumbs up was the reason she got Overall.”
From then on Mike and Katie began a friendship. Through mutual friends they started to speak regularly, all while Mike was creating an organization that he would work with his senior year called Ohana, which helps raise money for Four Diamonds families. Katie and Mike spoke frequently that summer while Mike was traveling abroad and Katie was living in State College. But as fate would have it, their birthdays fell only four days apart. All in one week they were able to celebrate Mike’s birthday, the fourth of July (their first date), and Katie’s birthday.
Mike and Katie were officially a couple, and they continued everyone’s dream of a THON romance. Mike was able to dance during his senior year, and his dancer wish was to dance on stage with Katie, his dream girl and then FR Overall. While he expected their song to be played at a late hour with not many people around, he was shocked to be called on stage during the final hours of THON to dance with his “One.”
Mike graduated in 2009 and moved to Washington D.C. as Katie completed her senior year and served as Ohana’s Family Relations Chair. That year, Katie was able to bring her THON journey full circle by dancing in THON 2010 for Ohana, the organization that her boyfriend and future husband helped start.
In December 2010 while visiting Mike’s family in Florida, Mike worked up the courage to pop the question.
“I knew him so well that I knew something was up; that just tells how in sync we are,” Katie said with a laugh.
Katie Austin became Katie Ducker on November 3, 2012 on a fall Saturday.
Katie and Mike are currently living in central Florida and just added to a puppy named Zoey their family. Of course, THON still has incredible meaning to their relationship.
“There is no question that THON brought us together. It has really been full circle,” said Katie. “It is an organization that saved my life, and without THON I would have never met Mike. I think about something so awful that happened when I was younger and how it changed me, but it also introduced me to the love of my life. It will always be a part of us. It will always be at the core of our relationship.”