IDC Feature: Kallen Mitchell and Jenna Cikowski
by Hanna Bernett

Kallen Mitchell and Jenna Cikowski met as Dancer Relations Committee Members during their first year at Penn State, which kickstarted their THON involvement. Now, they are an Independent Dancer Couple in THON 2022! 

During their first year at Penn State, Kallen and Jenna were both nursing students living in the same building. These commonalities inspired them to apply for a THON Committee together, where they truly became close. “It really shows how cool it is that THON can bring friends together,” Kallen said. The friends feel that they had a special committee who really went above and beyond to connect with each other and with THON. At the beginning of THON 2020, Kallen and Jenna walked onto the floor first in line with the rest of the first years and found it so empowering to have a whole committee behind them. “That moment that we shared as a committee and as freshmen was really special.”  

“As a freshman, when you first come to Penn State it is tough to find a group of people to rely on. I applied to my freshman year committee alongside other people who would soon become my best friends. The emotions of being a freshman all culminated when I was walking onto the floor with other volunteers who were in my situation. In Dancer Relations, it is a tradition for the captain of each committee for the freshman to walk out in front of the rest of the committee onto the floor for their first shift of THON Weekend,” reminisced Jenna, “This is the first time that most freshman experience THON. It was really special to know that all the people who care about THON as much as we do were also experiencing their first THON with us and were as excited for it as we were.”  

After feeling blown away by their first committee experience, Kallen and Jenna reapplied for Dancer Relations and volunteered on two different THON 2021 committees. While it was tough to come off a surreal in-person THON experience and transition to virtual, both girls felt that Dancer Relations really took the best approach possible thanks to great leadership. “I knew that THON had made an impact on me, and I knew I wanted to continue my involvement in as meaningful of a way as possible,” Kallen explained.  

The friends’ commitment to their THON involvement became less accessible during their nursing clinicals year at the Hershey campus. Volunteering as a Committee Member is not an option for them, so Kallen knew that she wanted to dance, and asked Jenna to partner with her as an Independent Dancer Couple. The pair lives right next to the children’s hospital and sees the effects of THON’s efforts firsthand. “Even though we’re only juniors, it just made sense to give it a try,” Jenna said.  

Kallen and Jenna elaborated on how their education and career path has impacted their THON journey. “We both have a really personal connection to this cause, as the efforts of THON directly benefit our patients. It is really special to see firsthand the impact that THON has on children and families in need, and we feel so grateful to be a part of this.  Our friendship has been completely based off of our involvement in THON, and it only made perfect sense for us to spend our Hershey year fundraising for this cause in hopes of being able to dance For The Kids.” 

“Jenna and I have both spent time in Penn State Children’s Hospital interacting with patients and families who are directly benefitting from THON and our efforts,” explained Kallen, “Being able to see this impact is really important to us, and we are proud to be able to support our patients in and out of the hospital. As a medical professional, the first time seeing the impact of THON firsthand and in action is something I will never forget.” 

The IDC relies on donations from family and friends, as well as crediting and matching opportunities. They also have created and participated in alternative funds this year.  

One of these fundraisers was a pie-in-the-face fundraiser that occurred in November. The friends said that it was a great way to know other IDCs and people who have been working on THON.  

Kallen and Jenna’s favorite part of being and IDC has been spreading awareness through THON. “We have to reach a lot further to get our message out. It’s been really special to see our friends and family understand the meaning of THON if they haven’t prior. I really love to see people take an interest in THON. If people aren’t from PA, it is difficult to understand THON’s reach. People are really eager to learn about THON. Its’s been really special to see people take an interest in something that has been really meaningful to us”. 

If you’d like to support Kallen and Jenna’s DonorDrive, please click here