Student remembered with fund for THON safety

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.--A freshman who lost her life on a fundraising trip for the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) is being celebrated with an endowment intended to help keep other students safe. The Courtney O’Bryan Memorial Fund was officially established on Saturday, Feb. 18, in a signing ceremony at the University's Bryce Jordan Center, where the annual THON event was on its way to securing almost $10.7 million for the fight against pediatric cancer.

“Courtney was passionate about helping others, and it’s inspiring to see so many other young people here at THON and Penn State who share that passion,” said her father, Bill O’Bryan. “We hope that this fund will make it easier for them to help kids with cancer while staying safe themselves. It’s a legacy that would mean a lot to Courtney, and it means a lot to us.”

Courtney O’Bryan, an 18-year-old freshman from Huntington, NY, died on Dec. 2, 2011, when the vehicle in which she was traveling for a THON canning trip hit a patch of black ice and overturned. The Courtney O’Bryan Memorial Fund grew out of conversations between her parents, Bill O’Bryan and Lisa Brigandi, and Henry Montag, the father of a student who was part of the same caravan traveling to Buffalo, NY. All three signed the guidelines creating the endowment, whose income may fund safety measures such as buses to transport students to canning locations.

“This fund brings Courtney’s journey full circle,” said Brigandi. “We want her name to be connected to THON forever, and we want other students to remember her sacrifice as they work toward the goal of beating childhood cancer. Courtney chose Penn State because she wanted a school that had spirit, and THON is such a powerful expression of that spirit.”

Courtney’s family was surrounded by members of her sorority, Sigma Tau Delta, as the guidelines were signed, and as the fund was announced at THON with a slideshow celebrating her life. The sorority is working to raise support for the fund through their Web site at www.greeks.psu.edu/phc/sdt/Sigma_Delta_Tau_at_Penn_State/In_Loving_Memory_of_Courtney_OBryan.html online. Gifts also can be made by visiting www.givenow.psu.edu/CourtneyOBryan online.

“The Courtney O’Bryan Memorial Fund will not only be an important resource for THON in finding creative ways to keep students safe," said Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims. "It will also serve as an enduring lesson to the Penn State community that even in the midst of tragedy, it is possible to take positive action. We are deeply grateful to Courtney’s family for sharing her with Penn State and for launching such an important effort.”

Contacts: 
Last Updated February 24, 2012