Penn State THON holds a special place in people’s hearts, and although Penn State men’s volleyball is never able to truly partake in the event dedicated for kids with childhood cancer, the team tries to participate in it as much as possible.
With two upcoming home games which mark the beginning of conference play this weekend, it also is the one time of the year when neon colors overtake the Bryce Jordan Center down the road. As much as this is one of the biggest weekends in the Penn State calendar, coach Mark Pavlik is focused on the matches at hand.
“In this office, our job is to focus on what we do. THON doesn’t impact us in terms of preparation. We do what we do because that is the way things happen,” Pavlik said.
Yet, the energy and atmosphere on campus completely changes when it is THON weekend. With more than 700 dancers to represent their organizations, there is a strong sense pride within the community.
“The whole vibe this week on campus leading up to it, is really special,” Pavlik said.
For redshirt junior Luke Braswell, he remembers the last time the team was able to fully partake in THON, and were able to make a dance to be performed during the sports dance battle. Braswell, Frank Melvin, Jason Donorovich, Lee Smith, Matthew McLaren, and Calvin Mende were all a part of the men’s volleyball THON dance of 2016.
Even though the team did not place in the top two, the memories Braswell recalls from that event were ones of unity and togetherness as everyone came together in one building to raise awareness for this cause.
“It was a great experience. We were not that good, but we still had a lot of fun. We always try to participate in fundraising activities because it is difficult due to us being in season,” Braswell said.
The team does their own fundraising on the side throughout the year to raise money for THON, as well as participating in several events outside of their own fundraising.
The one event the team is most known for is the sports team lip-sync battle, an event put on annually to raise money for THON. This past fall, the freshmen that represented the team won the gold over all of the other teams involved with the event.
Freshman Cal Fisher spoke about what the team does to raise awareness for the cause, as well as how even though they are unable to make the event majority of the time, due to their team being in season. They do everything they can to let people know they are thinking of them and their journey.
“We were in the lip-sync battle. Our freshmen group did a skit, and we won it. We raised a good amount of money for THON,” Fisher said.
Even though men’s volleyball will be starting a match at the same time the 46-hour dance marathon occurs, the children and people representing this cause are never far from the team’s thoughts. This is especially true for Pavlik, as his nephew, Nick, will represent club baseball as one of the 700-plus dancers that will take to the floor of the BJC this weekend.
“He has been involved with THON behind the scenes for his entire collegiate career, and now he gets the chance to dance. We will be pulling for him too,” Pavlik said.
To most, this weekend represents all that a Nittany Lion should be — someone who is passionate, selfless and caring. A person willing to help others around them, in order to achieve their goals. This is the weekend people are extremely proud to be a Nittany Lion.
“What [THON] means to me the most is at its core, it is what a Nittany Lions are supposed to be about,” Pavlik said. “Helping others who cannot help themselves. Making the effort to make sure that people who are in any level of discomfort, try to find comfort in the efforts that we make.
“To give them anything and everything they need to enjoy what they are doing. This is probably one of the most proud weekends that all Penn Staters should have. ”
Some of the THON dancers for 2019 are seniors dancing for the first time. While their concerns, motives and intentions differ, the excitement is universal.