It’s no secret that Penn State’s THON is a transformative weekend for all involved. The 46-hour no-sitting-no-sleeping dance marathon held in the Bryce Jordan Center is a truly magical weekend raising funds for families battling pediatric cancer — but THON is only as magical as the volunteers, the spectators and the dancers make it, and perhaps no one has made it so quite like dancer Taylor Stossel.
Stossel (fourth-year, secondary education social studies) danced in THON 2022 on behalf of Volé Dance Company, where she has been an active member all four years of her college experience. Stossel’s passion for the kids is an inspiration to all who know her and is a major part of her life.
Stossel has held many roles in THON throughout her time at Penn State. As a first-year, she was a member of Rules & Regulations as a Pass Security Committee Member. She served on Volé’s THON Committee her second year as both Finance Chair and Acting Weekend Chair, as well as a regular volunteer her third year. Stossel now serves as Volé’s Executive Board as THON Chair.
Stossel’s passion for THON isn’t anything new — it’s been a part of her practically her whole life. Both of her parents went to Penn State, so she knew what a special thing THON was from the time she was a little girl. Growing up in Harrisburg, Stossel says she grew up around many Four Diamonds children and families, and always admired “their strength and courage.” She knew from the time she accepted her admission at Penn State that she wanted to dance in THON one day, citing it as one of the reasons she chose to attend Penn State.
It was Stossel’s “roots for loving THON” that drove her to get involved in fundraising efforts at the beginning of her first year at Penn State.
“As soon as I joined Volé I realized that I could combine my love for dance with my love of THON,” she says. And boy, did she! Stossel hosted a canvassing trip at her family’s home as a freshman, which raised the most money on a canvassing trip that year. As Volé’s THON Chair this year, she led Volé in their fundraising efforts of over $67,000 for the kids.
While Stossel’s passion for THON goes further back than her time in Volé, it was meeting Volé’s THON families that really ignited her passion for the kids as a Penn State student.
“I fell in love with the Weinhold’s [one of Volé’s THON families] freshman year and knew that I wanted to devote my time to making their life even better,” she said. “I fell in love and knew from that moment on that it would be part of my life forever.”
Stossel was also a member of Volé’s THON committee when they welcomed their second family, the O’Toole’s, which Taylor described as an honor.
Those 46 hours in the Bryce Jordan Center are some of the most difficult hours many Penn State students face in their lives — so how do they push through? Stossel says it was Volé’s committed members in the stands and their THON families that kept her going that weekend, which she says “gave her chills.”
While dancing in THON was Stossel’s “dream come true,” she knew that it wasn’t her dream alone. Stossel understood what her participation in THON meant to not only her, but to Volé and their THON partner Alpha Sigma Phi (who she says “killed it” in the stands this THON weekend), their THON families and every other Four Diamonds family.
“Dancing in THON means hope — it means a future without cancer, with more laughter, more joy, more birthdays,” she told VALLEY. “Dancing is the way that I can honor our two beautiful families and their fight … They’ve changed my life in more ways than they will ever know and I will not stop until we find a cure.”
Perhaps it is her passion for THON, her selfless dedication to raising funds or just her enthusiasm for THON, but something about Stossel simply inspires those around her to do what they can for the kids. As she nears graduation, she knows that she’s leaving behind something great for both her peers and the Four Diamonds that so inspired her.
“THON is something special — it’s not just a weekend. It’s life-changing and it’s forever,” she says. “it’s also the moments that the kids will remember forever … Just as much as you are changing them, they’re changing you, and that is a beautiful thing.”
Stossel’s parting advice to anyone looking to further their involvement with THON is simple — “enjoy every moment.”
“Join that org or committee, apply to be a captain, go on every canvassing or family bonding trip,” she advises.
“You’ll regret the moments you chose not to attend,” she says. “Before you know it, your time as a student will be over, but you will always be a part of the THON community and the fight will not stop until we find a cure.”
Stossel concludes with this: “Always remember your ‘why’ — the kids.”