Penn State Lehigh Valley Benefiting THON announces the 2020 dancers

Carissa Ackley
February 04, 2020

The dancers representing Penn State Lehigh Valley for this year’s THON have been announced. The annual 46-hour no sitting, no sleeping dance marathon is being held Feb. 21 to 23 at the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State University Park. THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world and is committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer by providing emotional and financial support, spreading awareness and ensuring funding for critical research. Year-long fundraising is used to distribute emotional and financial support to the children, families, researchers and staff of the Four Diamonds Foundation at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

During THON weekend, students, volunteers and Four Diamonds families come together in a mission to end childhood cancer. For this 46-hour event, volunteers give kids and their families the opportunity to forget about their diagnosis. More than 700 students are recognized as dancers for THON Weekend.

The THON students on campus have been busy fundraising since early in the school year. A used book sale was held in September, a dodgeball tournament was held in October and a special fundraiser and celebration was held in November on the 100 days to THON date. Each year a dedicated alumnus, Howard Kulp, engages THON students in a children’s book drive. He donates $1 per book collected towards the cause. Students have created a donor drive, raising more than $9,000 on this effort alone. They have also held “ribboning” events at local restaurants, accepting donations for pediatric cancer yellow ribbons. The Penn State Lehigh Valley Benefiting THON team also volunteered at Lights in the Parkway and at the 5K that kicks off this annual celebration. They received donations for their service at these events.

The students chosen to represent Penn State Lehigh Valley Benefiting THON this year are Kate Wagner, Stephen Botek, Natalie Ament and Elizabeth Jasilionis.

Kate Wagner is a sophomore at Penn State Lehigh Valley majoring in early childhood/elementary education.

Q: Why did you want to become a THON dancer?

Wagner: “I wanted to become a THON dancer because the cause is so important to me. My youngest brother is a pediatric cancer survivor, and my family's story has inspired me to be involved in Mini-THONs in high school and continue to make an impact with THON here at PSU-LV. I also wanted to be a dancer to represent our campus! I truly found my niche here with the THON crew, fellow CAB members and other peers I've been able to connect with during my time here.”

Q: How do you plan on preparing for the THON dance marathon?

Wagner: “I'm definitely staying extra hydrated! I'm going to incorporate endurance exercise into my daily routine a few times a week. The hardest thing that I'm doing to prepare for THON is cutting out caffeine — I miss my Starbucks run before class!”

Q: What does it mean to you to be chosen to dance for THON?

Wagner: “It is a huge honor and privilege to be chosen as one of four dancers, especially when I look at the three amazing individuals who will be dancing alongside me. We have all worked so hard this year, and I feel thrilled to have been selected this year. It means everything to be chosen as a THON dancer—this is an experience I have been hoping to achieve since ninth grade as a freshman in my high school's Mini-THON. It's even more rewarding to be chosen to represent PSU-LV because this has become my home away from home. I am proud to represent my hard work and dedication, our student organization’s dedication and our campus.”

Stephen Botek is a first-year student at Penn State Lehigh Valley majoring in wildlife and fisheries science.

Q: Why did you want to become a THON dancer?

Botek: “I wanted to become a THON dancer because ever since I was in high school, I have always been involved with Mini-THON. In my senior year of high school, I was actually one of 12 students to start a new philanthropy club. Ever since the first THON event that I attended, I fell in love with it and I have been very involved since. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for those struggling with pediatric cancer, and THON is the ultimate way to contribute towards helping those children and families. I still remember the feeling of seeing the money we raised in my junior year of high school when I helped run the event. It was one of the best feelings ever and I told myself that I would do anything to relive that feeling. Being a THON dancer is exactly how to do it.”

Q: How do you plan on preparing for the THON dance marathon?

Botek: “I plan on preparing for THON weekend by conditioning myself both mentally and physically. I have started to go to the gym and work out, primarily focusing on my legs and lower back as those will be the most stressed parts of my body during the weekend. I am also participating in the ‘dry period’ where dancers are encouraged to go 30 days without caffeine or alcohol so that your body is not dependent on them during the weekend. I also aim to be mentally prepared as well, as I have heard from many previous dancers that if you are mentally defeated, you will be physically defeated, too. Keeping a good mindset and staying positive throughout the weekend will be key in getting me through the 46 hours.”

Q: What does it mean to you to be chosen to dance for THON?

Botek: “It means so much for me to be chosen to represent Penn State Lehigh Valley at THON this year. I am honored to represent our campus because we have all put in so much hard work and effort. I think that we can prove that although we are a small campus, Penn State Lehigh Valley is capable of doing incredible things.”

Natalie Ament is a sophomore at Penn State Lehigh Valley majoring in rehabilitation and human services (RHS).

Q: Why did you want to become a THON dancer?

Ament: “Penn State has been a great part of my life ever since I was born. Both of my parents met while attending Penn State and got married at the Eisenhower Chapel at University Park. My parents always donated to THON, so I learned the importance of the cause at an early age. THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, and I love that I am getting the opportunity to be a part of something so special. I wanted to be a THON dancer to help make a difference.”

Q: How do you plan on preparing for the THON dance marathon?

Ament: “I plan to prepare for THON weekend in many ways. I have cut out caffeine and reduced my consumption of foods that contain simple sugars. I have also begun to work out more, especially my legs as I will be relying on them for the 46 hours of standing. I am used to taking naps after a busy day of classes and work, but I have stopped taking them in order to get used to being awake for longer periods of time.”

Q: What does it mean to you to be chosen to dance for THON?

Ament: “I am honored to be representing Penn State Lehigh Valley through this journey. I am happy to be one of the dancers that helps make a difference in the hopes to find a cure for pediatric cancer. Through the past year and a half, I have devoted much of my time and energy to making a difference. Being named a dancer brings my THON experience full circle.”

Elizabeth Jasilionis is a sophomore at Penn State Lehigh Valley majoring in biology.

Q: Why did you want to become a THON dancer?

Jasilionis: “I wanted to be a THON dancer after I went to THON weekend last year as a general member. I had a great time and thought I'd apply to be a dancer!”

Q: How do you plan on preparing for the THON dance marathon?

Jasilionis: “I plan on preparing by cutting out all caffeine. I've also started eating much healthier and working out every chance I get!”

Q: What does it mean to you to be chosen to dance for THON?

Jasilionis: “I think being picked as a THON dancer is the highest honor a Penn State student can get. There are no words to describe how incredibly appreciative I am to represent Penn State Lehigh Valley at THON weekend in February.”

Penn State Lehigh Valley continues its preparations for THON with an annual silent auction. This year’s auction will be held from now through Feb. 7. The annual THON Silent Auction has provided great opportunities for students, faculty, and campus community to fundraise in advance of the marathon event. Also, save the date for the THON Dancer Send off at 12:15 p.m. Feb, 19 in room 135.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 04, 2020