by Kate Nalty

This year’s THON is definitely different from the THONs of our past. However, Caitlin Brennan, a senior dancing for Zeta Tau Alpha and Alpha Tau Omega, stays both motivated and positive by remembering and honoring the one person who influenced her to dance this year– Joyce Ortiz. Joyce was not only Zeta Tau Alpha and Alpha Tau Omega’s THON child, but also a fun-loving, sarcastic, and energetic friend to the entire organization itself.  

Although it wasn’t until her sophomore year that Caitlin got the opportunity to meet Joyce, she claims that Joyce taught her everything. “She taught me that no matter how hard your fight is, there’s always someone going through something harder. Even if you’re struggling and something hurts, you’re going to make it through. It’s going to work out for the best no matter what the result is,” Caitlin said.  

During THON of 2019, Caitlin was the only sophomore in Zeta who was given the opportunity to go onto the floor for the Final Four hours. This year, she reflects back to those precious moments, reminiscing the time she was able to spend getting to know Joyce on a personal level. Those Final Four hours provided Joyce with the confidence she needed to break out of her shell, transforming from a shy, little girl into a hilarious, sassy entertainer. Caitlin recalls all those on the floor watching in appreciation as Joyce sang Ice Ice Baby. THON of 2019 was unfortunately Joyce’s first and only THON, as heaven gained an unforgettable angel in January of 2020. However, her memory will last forever. She is one of the greatest motivating factors for Caitlin and other Zetaus members who longed to dance this THON weekend.

Caitlin Brennan has been involved with THON since her freshman year at Penn State. She has held a variety of THON related positions throughout her years at Penn State. Caitlin has been a THON Chair, Finance Chair, Family Relations Chair, Finance Captain for Corporate and Matching Checks, and of course a dancer this year representing Zeta Tau Alpha and Alpha Tau Omega throughout it all.  

            Although we are all unfortunately not able to stand together this year for THON, Caitlin reminds others that despite these unprecedented adjustments, THON is still THON–together or apart. And everything we have done and continue to do is still for the same cause: For The Kids. Caitlin repeatedly acknowledges that, “Even though this year, it’s not going to look the same, THON isn’t a weekend or a place but rather a feeling.”