Written By: Evan Halfen and Tara Sbordone
Dancers Mary Meyer and Ava Matarese, both juniors dancing in THON™ Weekend this year, have a special connection to THON’s mission. Both dancers chose to be an independent dancer couple wearing #Laura’sLions on their backs.
This year, Meyer and Matarese are dancing for Laura Bealer and Laura’s Lions. Bealer, a Penn State nursing student and an active member of the THON community is currently battling cancer for the second time in her life.
Matarese met Bealer through a nursing lab at Penn State and both Meyer and Matarese praised Bealer for how open and honest she is with her entire experience battling cancer. They found that the way Bealer has vlogged her journey is inspiring in the way that she remains positive and vulnerable to encourage and help others.
Having a close relationship with Bealer made dancing much more personal. Meyer emphasized that being able to see what is happening firsthand, and how it is directly affecting someone you know, makes everything much more real and powerful.
Both Meyer and Matarese came to Penn State completely online, so they did not have the opportunity to experience THON in all its glory. The following year, both were involved through different committees and organizations and felt that THON was truly a life-changing experience and wanted a more active role in THON in the coming years.
At the THON 5K powered by PNC Bank, both Meyer and Matarese decided they were going to go for it and IDC for THON Weekend 2023. All of their work paid off because they were standing for 46-hours on the floor for THON and their friend Laura.
To fundraise and qualify for an independent dancing couple spot, both pushed DonorDrives on all forms of social media to gain as much attention as they could. They also made an Instagram, Mary and Ava Benefitting THON, to gain more attention and to post their own independent fundraisers. They posted a countdown to dancer registration as well as to THON Weekend to get others excited about the event. In terms of alternative fundraisers, Meyer and Matarese held a pasta party as well as a walking taco fiesta at their apartment and posted all over social media that anyone was welcome to attend with a donation to THON.
Meyer and Materese both emphasized how much fun they are having and how fulfilling it was that all of their work fundraising finally came to fruition as they were standing on the floor for the next 46 hours. Both came to Penn State with a goal to be involved in THON and emphasized that being involved in an organization like THON not only makes you a better student and connects you to people you may have never met, but it helps make you a better person overall.