Dancer Spotlight: Emily Irvin and Matthew Junker
by David Kronthal

The theme for THON 2021, “Rise and Unify”, is a recognition that we need to move past the current circumstances forced on us by the coronavirus pandemic and unify to support the kids, according to Emily Irvin, a dancer for the Sapphire Leadership Program. Emily and her fellow dance partner Matthew Junker are dancing for their first time as juniors this THON weekend.

In preparing for THON weekend both Matthew and Emily took different approaches when it came to how they got ready in the weeks leading up to THON. Matthew relates the experience of standing with his time marching in the Penn State Blue Band, explaining that he had worked a lot on preparing mentally for the weekend in the same way that he would when performing. Emily, who exercises daily, had tried to cut back a little bit on her activity and do lighter exercises in order to keep herself from being too sore to dance. Their organization, the Sapphire Leadership Program, also took action in preparing its two dancers for THON weekend. Matthew and Emily were dancing out of Emily’s apartment, the apartment having been fully decorated by the members of the Sapphire Leadership program. They constantly had activities running for their two dancers, as well as a zoom that ran throughout the THON livestream to keep Matthew and Emily well-connected to their organization. The two had even taken part in some of the THON livestream’s activities, as Matthew had participated in the trivia pie contest early Sunday morning. He described the activity as one of his favorites, touting how good he was at taking pies to the face.

When motivating themselves to continue dancing for THON, both Matthew and Emily remember their personal connections to THON. Matthew and Emily both dance for the Grabs family and their child Hailey, the THON family of the Sapphire Leadership Organization. Additionally, Matthew dances for a dear friend that he had lost to cancer a few years prior, making the cause even more personal to him. As juniors, both Matthew and Emily wish to continue their involvement in THON through the Sapphire Leadership Program and to support future dancers for their organization. Even in a year ravaged by a global pandemic, Matthew Junker and Emily Irvin both understand that since cancer doesn’t stop, THON shouldn’t either.