by Hanna Bernett

During THON Weekend 1991, a Penn State cheerleader named Dawn volunteered to help the dancers stretch. At four in the morning on Sunday, a mutual friend introduced her to Mike Cinker, a dancer from Sigma Pi. Who would have guessed that this chance meeting could lead to a multi-generational THON Legacy?  

Today, Mike and Dawn have two children: Ben (‘21) and Will (‘24). The Cinker Family raised their kids to love Penn State and THON, making trips to campus for football games and THON Weekend as the boys were growing up. Ben and Will took on leadership positions at an early age by orchestrating their high school’s Mini-THONs. The brothers cited THON as a major reason for choosing to study at Penn State.   

Once arriving at college, Ben involved himself more than ever before, working first as a Finance Committee Member and then progressing to the role of a Finance Captain. During his senior year, he served as the Alumni Relations Chair for his THON Organization, where he loved getting to interact with families on a smaller and more personal scale. This close connection is something he wishes his parents could have experienced.  

“My business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi, is paired with three amazing families: the Bushes, the Camps, and the Wrights. The bond that I, alongside the rest of our organization, have with our families is incredible, and it is very special to know our families on such a personal level. Being able to interact with families on a regular basis and participate in activities throughout the year really hits home, because moments like these are the reason why we THON.”  

However, it was dancing in THON 2021 that made the whole experience the most memorable for Ben, who was grateful to have continued the tradition that his father began thirty years before.   

“My favorite THON memory has to be the Final Four of THON 2021. Standing with my arms wrapped around my fellow DSP dancers, this period of time allowed me to reflect on the four years I volunteered in THON, and everything came full circle.  Dancing was something I always wanted to do, but I never could have imagined how impactful the journey to this moment could’ve had on my life.  From the resilient families I met, to the amazing friends I made, and the countless memories that will stay with me forever, that moment made me realize how grateful I am to have been a part of THON.” 

Ben knows that his involvement with THON will not end with his college career, and he looks forward to seeing how the Cinker Family Legacy will continue with Will.  

“I hope to see Will experience THON in a way that is unique to his college years. As a freshman OPP Committee Member throughout the virtual year of THON 2021, I saw Will have such a passion for getting involved in THON and maintaining an optimistic attitude throughout it all. I hope he takes THON as an opportunity to get to know and support many amazing families and make connections with plenty of other THON volunteers.”