Glenn De Angelis, a senior energy engineering student, put on his lucky SpongeBob arm bands that he wore last year when he successfully danced for the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon and headed to the Bryce Jordan Center (BJC).
As the EMS THON overall chair this year, he was ready. Although EMS students who participated in THON are quick to point out it’s a team effort, under the leadership of DeAngelis, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) raised a record $87, 601.82. This was the second year in a row EMS was first among general organizations.
The doors of the BJC opened at 1 p.m. on Friday, February 17, 2012. “As we went through the human tunnel of hundreds of THON committee members lining the hallways, the excitement was unbelievable. I was holding my clip board and waving my sky blue bandana high in the air trying to keep us all together,” said DeAngelis.
DeAngelis acknowledges this was a very different year than last year. Students grieved for the loss of Coach Paterno and for the young freshman, Courtney O’Bryan, killed in a car accident en route to a THON canning trip. One of the four canning trips had to be cancelled because of inclement weather, and although DeAngelis and the EMS THON students supported the difficult decision, they worried about the effect it would have on the final fundraising total. The students also fought hard not to let the negativity of the events of the past year dampen their belief in the positive power of people working together for a common goal. The money raised supports the Four Diamonds Fund to help pediatric cancer patients, families and researchers.
On Sunday, when the overall THON total was revealed and was 12 percent higher than last year’s $9.6 million, it felt like a rainbow. Brian Bastian, who served as the EMS donor and alumni relations chair, credits the strength of the EMS executive committee (Marla Korpar, canning chair; Caitlyn McCloy, fundraising chair; and Annie Tamalavage, family relations chair) for much of the success of EMS.
EMS students commented that the close knit feeling of family among EMS students, EMS alumni, and the THON families provide a lot of motivation. Many alumni visit throughout the weekend and support the students throughout the year-long fundraising.
“The families’ strength inspires us too,” said Marla Korpar. This year the Michael Woods and Troy Brewer families were paired with EMS through the Adopt-A-Family program. Michael is in fifth grade, and his cancer is in remission; however, Troy passed away in 2006. Throughout the year, EMS students interact with the families.
“The ‘why we THON’ is different for every person, but ultimately it’s for those we love and those we lost–For the Kids. Their stories, both tragic and triumphant, inspire me to be a better person,” said Katie Lukens (meteorology) who danced this year along with Brian Bastian (meteorology), Annie Tamalavage (geosciences), Caitlyn McCloy (energy, business and finance), Greg Smith (geobiology), and Marla Korpar (environmental systems engineering).
Marla Korpar, a junior, got involved in THON as a freshman and found the last four hours of THON as a dancer this year were especially memorable.
“I should have been exhausted. ‘What a Wonderful World’ was playing and the BJC was filled to capacity. I looked out on the floor and up to the stands and saw so many people–it was a sea of bright colors–all standing arms around each other swaying back and forth. I felt love radiating from the BJC. I could see it with my eyes, but I could also feel it in my soul.”
As DeAngelis left the BJC at the end of THON weekend, the sky in Happy Valley was Penn State blue. “It’s important to remember that when people come together for good, something miraculous can happen,” he said.