by Mehreen Hoque

Written by: Maggie Waters and Isabella Lennon

Written on: February 1st, 2023

Phi Epsilon Kappa is a professional Pre-Health honors fraternity, whose purpose is to, “bring together people who are going into the healthcare field and allow them opportunities to widen their horizons in the healthcare field,” states Callie Pruitt, ‘PEK’s’ Primary THON Chair. Callie oversees three other chairs, with jobs ranging from fundraising, to business outreach and merchandising, to getting PEK’s first THON family!  

Callie has been very successful in preparing over 100 participants to be involved with and get excited for THON™. She shares some of these successes, “PEK works year-round to help build our THON organization. We are a newer organization and this will be our 4th year. We are excited to have a family this year and to be allotted 3 dancers. We are working hard to fundraise through alternative fundraisers and get everyone in the fraternity involved in THON. We hope for a lot of growth in our THON org over the next few years.”  

Thanks to the help of the PEK family and Family Relations Chair, Jazzy Henriques, Callie was pleased to share, “For THON 2023, I am looking forward to having a THON family. We were paired with the Ayaz family and have had an amazing time interacting with our THON child, Anees. She and her family will hopefully be joining us this year and the entire fraternity is very excited to be able to share this experience with the Ayaz family.” 

You could ask any brother of PEK why they are so passionate, and you will be greeted with loads of passion, empathy, and ambition for the whole year leading up to THON Weekend and then even more for the following year. Callie told us, “Growing up in California, I had never heard of THON™. I got involved through one of my other organizations and I have never been the same since. Meeting these families and people who were dancing for them was truly inspirational. I THON for better tomorrows and I THON for the future of these inspiring families.” 

Former President Ryan Evans, former Pledge Parent Cirstyn Sempko, and Mitchell Dunay, have been selected as the 3 dancers for PEK this year. Mitchell sat down with us to share his experience and optimism for this THON Weekend, “I wanted to become a dancer because of the chance to provide my full support to Four Diamonds and THON for 2023. I want to support the THON families by dancing and interacting with them for the duration of THON. I hope that the children and families can look up to me and be inspired to continue with their fight, as ultimately standing for 46 hours is nothing compared to the daily battle that many of the families go through.” When speaking with him, Mitchell also shared, “I THON for the opportunity to be able to support and be even the slightest positive impact on a family and/or child that is involved with Four Diamonds and battling against pediatric cancer.” He continues with PEK, “Seeing first-hand how our fundraising and events impact the families has driven me to be even more involved with THON this year. Additionally, with PEK having Anees as our THON child this year, it has put even more of a new perspective on the event knowing that I am also representing her and her family at THON.”  

While many of the upperclassmen are excited for THON 2023, all of PEK’s newest inductees are equally as passionate. Gabe Cipollone, a first-year, has recently been inducted into the professional fraternity. “I joined PEK because I knew of the benefits that come along with it. Professionally, socially, and health-wise. All of those coming together just seemed like a perfect fit to me. My older sister, Mary Kate, was in PEK and I knew I wanted to be in it too and meet friends for life in it like she did.” He was eager to swiftly become involved in THON for PEK, “I think PEK is one of the most passionate groups of people for THON, maybe because we are a health-based fraternity. In the short time I’ve been in PEK, I understood how important THON is to everyone which is a great thing to see. I think everything PEK does for THON with fundraisers, our dancers, and the passion everyone has for it is unmatched.” 

Gabe Cipollone pictured with his sister, Mary Kate 

Gabe has had a special passion for THON, as he describes, “I THON because I am a two-time pediatric cancer survivor myself. Ever since I learned about THON at a young age it just added to the love I had for Penn State already. It definitely is something sentimental to me and really hits deep knowing what I went through and seeing everything done and all the money raised for these children and their families. It really is beautiful to see, and I genuinely couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”  

PEK has had a wide variety of fundraisers over the course of the past year. Callie stated her favorite, “The pie-a-brother! It was fun to see how much enjoyment people had with it and how many people got involved!” Gabe agrees, “Personally, my favorite way to fundraise would have to be pie-a-brother. Not only do the funds go towards a good cause but it allows friends who aren’t in PEK to join in the fun and its overall just a really good time for everyone.” Mitchell continued, “A few of my favorite ways to fundraise or help others fundraise have been to help make breakfast sandwiches to raise money, buying THON merch for PEK and my club baseball organization, and participating in various events including the THON 5k. The 5k especially challenges me to push myself for a great cause while also being able to help with fundraising money for THON itself.” 

After all the fundraising and meetings PEK has happily participated in, they will not stop until the end of a successful THON weekend. You will always find members of PEK proudly hoisting the letters and their dancer’s big heads with enthusiasm and excitement! Callie’s favorite memory of THON includes, “It was about 2 am on Sunday and everyone was feeling it at this point. The Taylor Swift song ‘All Too Well’ came on and I just remember all the energy coming back to the whole room. Everyone was singing and I stood there and screamed this song with many of my brothers. It was a moment that I always smile about because I remember how tired we all were yet we still found the energy and joy that THON brings.” 

Pictured: Mitchell Dunay (right)

While Mitchell will be on the floor this year, he certainly has good memories of being with the organization, “Some of my favorite THON memories include being in the stands and supporting our dancers last year, witnessing the THON child talent show and the pep rallies on Saturday night, playing games in the stands with PEK brothers, witnessing the final four for the first time, and promising to get hot dogs at 2 am with Cirstyn [another brother of PEK], who is also dancing with me this year.” As he looks to his time as a dancer this year, Mitchell is looking forward to, “dancing and being on the floor for the entirety of THON 2023. I am also extremely excited and cannot wait to experience all the events while on the floor. I also cannot wait to see all the PEK brothers in the stands cheering us on and supporting us throughout the entire time. Finally, I am excited to interact with the THON kids and families.” 

Brother Gabe shares, “I actually got a floor pass when my sister, Mary Kate, was a dancer in 2020 so I got to experience being on the floor for an hour. It was surreal being there and seeing everyone in the stands. I got to stay the rest of that THON in the stands, and it was really emotional for me and my mom during the final four and the final count of how much money was raised. There’s nothing else like it in the world.” Seeing as this THON will be Gabe’s first THON as a first-year and brother of PEK, he is, “looking forward to being there with my brothers in the stands. I can’t wait to be a part of THON and experience it as a survivor and a Penn State student. It’s definitely going to be emotional for me but being there with my brothers and cheering on our dancers is going to be indescribable.” Gabe is excited for future THONs as well, “Hopefully sometime in the future I can be on the floor representing PEK.” 

PEK has certainly not slowed down in their efforts to make this THON a special one for the fraternity. Callie shares, “As the primary chair, I am doing a lot right now to prepare for THON. I am organizing a lot of things so we can be well prepared for THON. We want this year to be our best year yet. We are revamping our letters and getting ready to have our section lively for the whole 46 hours.” Dancer Mitchell is preparing, “I am making a push to consistently go to the gym and do some cardio and strength exercises in order to increase my fitness and be able to stand the entire duration. In addition to the physical training, I am trying my best to mentally prepare for THON, however I think that actually being down on the floor and seeing all the support from my friends at PEK and being with the other dancers will help a ton. Finally, seeing the THON families walking around will push me to stand the entire duration as I know I am helping to inspire and support them.” Gabe has, “been preparing for THON in multiple ways. I think the most impactful thing I’ve been doing has been raising money through my DonorDrive. I’ve raised over $2,500 and couldn’t be happier. Hopefully, that number continues to grow but I think I should also prepare myself for standing for a while because I plan on staying as long as I can.” 

Whether you are dancing or spectating, be sure to keep an eye out for the members of Phi Epsilon Kappa. Very importantly, be sure to appreciate the debut of brand-new shiny letters that the brothers will be proudly holding for the 46 hours of THON weekend. Their efforts this year have been nothing short of extraordinary and will be a force For The Kids for years to come!