Thursday, March 4, 2021
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Why They Dance: THON 2021 Dancers Share Their Inspiration

At 6 p.m. on Friday, 592 dancers will stand for the first-ever virtual THON. While THON 2021 will look a little different this year, its dancers are showing their passion for the cause as much or more than ever before.

Now in its 44th year of supporting the Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, THON has raised more than $180 million for pediatric cancer patients and their families while also providing them with emotional support and raising awareness.

Earlier this week, Onward State asked dancers to share why they are dancing in THON. Here are just a few of the responses received.

Kristen Benson, Association Of Preprofessional Pediatric Specialists (APPS)

Why are you dancing in THON?

When I was younger, I lost my close friend to pediatric cancer. She was an amazing person, and she has been my core inspiration for my involvement in THON. When I came to Penn State as a freshman, I joined an organization that has 3 amazing THON children. Each of those kids is so strong, and will always be one of the best parts of my THON involvement.

Lastly, my current organization was so lucky to have been paired with a new Four Diamonds Family this year. I’ve gotten to know and appreciate our THON child this year, and she is another big reason why I’m dancing. Being able to create a meaningful relationship with Four Diamonds Families and witness the strength and resilience of the Four Diamonds Children is why I wanted to dance in THON. Being a senior, and experiencing three other THONs, I have met previous dancers, visited them on the floor, and seen the joy that every person gets from THON Weekend. I’m dancing to continue to spread that joy and hope to one day dance in celebration of a cure.

What does dancing in THON mean to you?

Dancing in THON means a lot to me. It’s a huge honor to be able to represent my organization and my THON Family. THON is an amazing event and creates a really supportive and powerful community. Dancing, to me, is a way to show my support for all the Four Diamonds Families and Kids. I’ve been so proud of my involvement in THON over the past three years, and I am honored to dance in my last THON as an active student!

What are you most excited for during THON 2021?

Although this THON is going to be the first virtual THON, I am so excited to see what this community is capable of doing for the kids. I know that there are going to be some great events to watch through the livestream, along with hearing Four Diamonds stories. I’m also most excited to Zoom with our paired family and THON child during THON Weekend, as this is their first THON. Overall, I am really excited to participate in dancer activities and watch the THON livestream.

Morgan Sederquist, Club Gymnastics

Why are you dancing in THON?

I’m dancing for all of my future patients. I’m a senior nursing major, and ever since my first THON, I have found my heart in pediatric oncology. So this year, I am dancing for all of the kiddos I will encounter in my future as a nurse.

What does dancing in THON mean to you?

Dancing in THON is such an honor, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do since my freshman year. Being a dancer means I get to represent my organization as well as all the other ones I’m a member of and raise money to support those children who can’t care for themselves. No family should have to worry about hospital bills, and should only have to focus on being a family during a time like this. It’s almost too hard to put into words how special dancing in THON is — it’s the next level of supporting the Four Diamonds Foundation.

What are you most excited for during THON 2021?

I’m honestly just excited to be part of the first group of virtual dancers. I’m honored to be dancing and can’t wait to see the impact this year has on our total.

Charlie Blenko, American Society Of Civil Engineers

Why are you dancing in THON?

It is so important now more than ever that we continue THON’s mission to provide financial and emotional support to families facing pediatric cancer as their struggles have only been compounded in this trying time.

What does dancing in THON mean to you?

To me, dancing in THON 2021 means keeping our promise to be here for Four Diamonds Families. The last year has been a rollercoaster of headlines, and we need to remember that Four Diamonds children and families have weathered these storms on top of their existing confrontation with cancer. THON 2021 to me stands as a force of resilience for these families. Despite every event of the last year, we are still here, and they are still here. Even if we are apart on Zoom, we can still share a smile and a dance with these incredible fighters.

What are you most excited for during THON 2021?

I’m looking forward to interacting with Four Diamonds Families on Zoom to say hi and let them know that we are still here for them.

Abby Taplar, Penn State Crossfit Club

Why are you dancing in THON?

I am dancing for Lily Jordan. She was the brightest young light anyone would ever have the pleasure of knowing. She took her final breaths on September 21, 2020.

What does dancing in THON mean to you?

THON means hope and proving hope to those who need it the most. The hope to dream, the hope to live, and the hope to beat this terrible disease.

What are you most excited for during THON 2021?

I’m excited to see how the tradition can live on through a new light.

Livi Simmerman, Arnold Air Society

Why are you dancing in THON?

I am dancing in THON for my organization’s THON child, Colby Hoch. We have been paired with the Hochs since 1994 when Colby was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma. Colby passed away in 1997 after relapsing, immediately after attending his first and only THON. Though I never got to meet him, I am dancing for Colby, for all of the THONs he was never able to make it to, and for every other child who has fought or will fight the unfair battle that is pediatric cancer.

What does dancing in THON mean to you?

To me, dancing in THON means hope. For every family that has to watch their child battle cancer, THON is the weekend where they get to see their children’s eyes light up and they all get to feel hope again. A community of people who are so diverse is united during THON Weekend with the hope that one day we will dance in celebration. This year, we are dancing during a pandemic, and THON looks incredibly different. THON is a glimmer of a normal life, and proof that not even a pandemic can stop the THON community from uniting over that hope.

What are you most excited for during THON 2021?

I’m really excited for the ability to be in constant contact with people during THON, such as our THON mom, Judy. Normally I would only be able to see people for a few hours at a time over the weekend, so it’s really cool that I can be on Zoom or Facetime with everyone, including my DRCMs, dancing partner, and other friends and family the whole time. It’s going to be a unique experience so I’m excited about all of that!

Kate Mulvenon, Independent Dancer Couple

Why are you dancing in THON?

I am dancing in THON in honor of my family friend Sadie. Sadie was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma when she was an infant. Ever since then, my mom and her friends have hosted a blood drive to collect blood and raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer. I am dancing in honor of Sadie’s battle with the disease and to celebrate her being cancer-free.

What does dancing in THON mean to you?

Dancing in THON means so much to me. Dancing in THON this year is even more special to me because I am dancing alongside my freshmen year roommate, Brittany. We have both dreamed of dancing in THON since we stepped foot in our dorm room freshmen year and we cannot wait to stand together for 46-ish hours.

What are you most excited for during THON 2021?

I am honestly so excited about everything. It will be such a unique experience to participate in THON as a dancer, especially for the first virtual THON. Even though THON will look different this year, I am looking forward to making the most of it with my best friend since freshman year.