Written by Téa Griffith, Keona Montague, and Ryan Murphy
From its start in 1973, THON™ has had a significant impact on its participants, inspiring many alumni to be actively involved in the organization and its fundraising efforts post graduating. THON has a strong network of Penn State alumni who, having participated as students, often continue to support and contribute to the cause. Alumni may stay involved in various ways such as through advocacy, volunteerism, networking and mentoring, financial contributions, and participation in THON Weekend 2024. The THON Community is known for its strong sense of camaraderie and shared purpose. This spirit often extends beyond years of active participation. THON Alumni contribute to the ongoing success of the organization and help to maintain its positive impact on the fight against childhood cancer.
We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Aiden Wahl, a Penn State Alumnus who was in the THON Organization, Apollo. We asked Aiden some important questions regarding his preparation for THON weekend and what his favorite THON memory was.
Before attending THON weekend, Aiden prepared by “getting lots of sleep” and making sure to have “comfy sneakers” — a great staple. Aiden said that while he didn’t dance, he tried to stay in the BJC for as long as possible.
After expressing his difficulty answering the question, Aiden revealed that his favorite THON memory was when he was in his first year at Penn State. He was walking around the Bryce Jordan Center to find the bathroom when someone came up to him and asked, “do you want to play a quiz game on the stage?” Aiden replied with a “yes” and roughly 20 minutes later, he was on the stage alongside 5 other contestants. The game consisted of some Penn State trivia and whichever contestant won the game got money donated to their organization. Although Aiden didn’t win, he did get $100 sent towards Apollo for participating. Reflecting on this favorite memory, Aiden says that “It was a blast!”
The next person we were able to interview was Erica Walbert Ely. She was a member of THON through Penn State’s Lion Scouts. Erica was voted by the other members of Lion Scouts to be a dancer for THON Weekend 2006. This was the last year THON was held in Rec Hall and was 48 hours long, rather than its current duration of 46 hours. When asked what her favorite THON memory was, she said “THON brought a lot of incredible memories, but one that really stands out is attempting to master the line dance and doing it every hour. It was such a creative routine to encapsulate the year and bring hope for the future.” She also mentioned “And, of course, the foot and calf massages were a lifesaver.” When asked how she stays involved in THON she said, “I donate to THON every year, during THON Weekend.” The last question we asked her was why she participates in THON. She responded that “Over 15 years later, the lessons from my THON experience continue to resonate within me. Stepping beyond my own concerns and immersing myself with a mission that annually raises millions of dollars for pediatric cancer research and care, while connecting with the brave children battling childhood cancer is an experience that reshaped my perspective on life. Today, I continue to find purpose in giving back to the world around me, driven by the spirit of THON that is instilled in me.”
Each year many THON Alumni come back to celebrate the achievements THON has made during the year. As seen from the Alumni’s’ stories, THON and its memories live on in each of us beyond our four years at Penn State. THON Weekend 2024 is approaching soon, and we are so excited to learn more about other Alumni’s stories and make memories of our own.
Header Photo: credit to Jacob Sparages