Counting down to THON: Excitement builds for those involved

UNIVERSITY PARK – As we count down the final days until THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer through emotional and financial support, I want to reflect a little on how I got to this position.

Right before Thanksgiving break, I was elected by my THON organization, Infinity, to dance in THON. It was a huge deal for not only myself and my partner, Meaghan, but for our org as a whole and our THON child, Imori, as we hadn't had dancers in about three or four years. I have been trying for the past three years to dance and each year I got closer to the opportunity but I was convinced that the third time was the charm, and it was. 

All I could think about in that moment was how proud my Nana would be of me. She was a huge supporter of donating money to organizations who provided services and funding to those affected by pediatric cancer and their research towards it. I know that if she were still here today, she would be donating on my behalf. 

Immediately, I gave up drinking coffee. To be honest, I don't know how I have gotten this far without it. I gave it up so early in advance because I knew I depended on it so heavily and would not be allowed to drink any over THON weekend. As the weeks have gone by, I have given up sweets and anything fatty, changing my diet over to fruits, veggies and proteins. I have also stopped consuming anything caffeinated, such as soda and alcohol as well. I think one of the hardest things for me has been making sure I drink enough water, but that has always been an issue for me. I have also been picking up a routine workout habit, mainly cardio and stretching.

A few nights ago, I attended the annual Color Wars event where dancers and their Dancer Relations Committee members (DRCMs) meet and spend time with committees and other dancer/DRCM pairs. The night was spent learning about THON weekend and playing fun icebreakers, leading into the preparation for a fun-filled weekend that is now only a week away.

As THON weekend approaches many people have shared their support and have asked me the big question: are you excited/are you ready? I've been waiting to do this since my freshman year. Coming from Virginia, I had no idea what THON was or the huge impact it would leave on me.

My Nana's passing has also been a factor in my decision to dance, as she donated to pediatric cancer research all of her life and I want to follow in her footsteps. Then, of course, comes my biggest motivation, the kids. This whole weekend is for them and for the hope that one day we will find a cure for more smiles, more laughter, more birthdays and so that every cub can become a Nittany Lion.

So I am very excited for this journey, one where I will make memories to last a lifetime and for a cause that's bigger than myself. I can't wait to be on the floor with 705 other amazing dancers, all the DRCMs, volunteers and students that make THON possible, to hang out with our THON child, Imori, and all the other children and families that will be in attendance – it will be no greater joy to me than to put a smile on their faces or make them laugh.

I will admit, I am a bit nervous. It's a lot to take in and a lot that I won't know about until I get there but I know it'll be one of the best experiences of my life.

Abbi Sales is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. She covers Penn State men’s hockey for HappyValley.com.

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