For Penn State’s all-female hip hop dance group Whiplash, the coronavirus pandemic brought the group closer to the overall mission of THON — spreading awareness of childhood cancer and raising money in pursuit of research for a cure.
President of Whiplash Andrea Marciano said a virtual THON has shown how much the Penn State community cares about THON's cause and mission.
“Although THON is virtual, I think it's still obvious to say that the mission and the end goal is still the same, and that's to show that every family always has us in the Penn State community,” Marciano (junior-biobehavioral health) said.
“Everyone standing there on Zoom and doing the line dance every hour just shows how much everyone cares about their THON families and how much we want to show them that we're there for them.”
While the goal of THON remains unchanged for Whiplash, one obvious area of difficulty this year was maintaining the energy and motivation of their two dancers, who — instead of dancing in a packed Bryce Jordan Center — were in an Airbnb for all 46 hours.
For dancer Elise Dowdall, messages of encouragement from her absent dance team partner are what kept her going the total 46 hours.
“Before we got started, they posted so many loving messages to their Instagram and Snapchat stories and many pictures cheering us on the whole weekend through GroupMe and Snapchat,” Dowdall (senior-enterprise risk management) said. “It made us feel more connected with them even though we couldn't be in person.”
Like a sorority, Whiplash thrives off of the connections made within the team.
With the lack of in-person events this school year, incorporating new members into the bond of the group has been difficult, but Whiplash team member Alayna Zanghetti said the obstacles have drawn the team and its younger members closer to the true meaning of THON.
“We did take new girls to join the team — we just haven’t really been able to practice with them,” Zanghetti (junior-advertising) said. “So just really building on those connections and making sure that everybody stays motivated to continue to keep donating and fundraising has brought us closer.”
With no packed BJC, live music or any audience at all, THON 2021 has proven to be a humbling experience for Whiplash.
“I think that this year has really proven that THON is something so important to Penn State students,” Dowdall said. “If we can do it this way, that shows how much all Penn State students care about this cause and how they will hopefully continue this forever.”
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