THON is officially less than a month away and captains, committee members, and organizations are all gearing up for the big weekend. THON weekend is an annual event, but the Special Events committee works tirelessly throughout the year to plan multiple events that raise awareness and critical funds for the cause.
The THON showcase, which took place this past Thursday, January 17, is just one example of the many events organized by this captain committee.
VALLEY spoke with THON Showcase captain Zack Durnack to learn more about what went into the planning and execution of this event.
The THON showcase is a competition in which THON volunteers have the opportunity to showcase their talents while also raising money for the cause. The acts compete to show their passion and skills, and there are a variety of prizes. The top three acts from the competition even have the opportunity to perform THON weekend.
This is the first year that this captain position has existed and only the second year the event has been under the Special Events committee. Prior to the THON Showcase existing, THON put on a Mr. and Mrs. THON pageant, but this new event is proving to be more inclusive and inviting to performers.
Planning for the event began in April, just after Durnack was announced as the THON Showcase captain. Durnack has a background in theatre and stage production, as well as a deep passion for the cause.
“I’m a musically inclined person and I’m also very passionate about THON. When I noticed there was a new captain position for the THON Showcase, I knew it would be the perfect way to combine what I loved with fighting childhood cancer. It was a way to turn my personal interests into something selfless,” says Durnack.
The showcase featured 16 different acts, ranging from hip hop dances to solo singing performances. The acts represented a variety of different organizations, committees and independent dancer couples (IDCs).
Each act was given the opportunity to perform before the judges deliberated to pick the top four. The judges for the event were UPUA President Cody Heaton, Homecoming Executive Director Isabella Webster, Blue Sapphire Gillian Brooks, Four Diamonds Teen Aness Ayaz, as well as two representatives from First National Bank, who sponsored the event.
Afterwards, the final four acts participated in a question and answer session. The questions were mostly related to the participant’s involvement with THON and their participation in the THON Showcase. These questions were an opportunity for the audience members and judges to get to know them a little better before their second performance of the night.
After the second round of performances, Hailey Burbage, a sophomore at Penn State Beaver, was announced as the winner. She did a solo contemporary dance routine to “Angel By The Wings” by Sia. She is the first ever participant in the THON Showcase from a commonwealth campus.
VALLEY spoke to Burbage after the event to learn what it was like to have this honor, as well as discuss her involvement with THON.
Despite being a dancer for several years, Burbage hadn’t originally planned on auditioning for the showcase. However, after encouragement from friends and family, she decided to.
“I spontaneously sent in a video the night before. I figured I might as well. Then, I was chosen to be here,” says Burbage.
She had been to the University Park campus before for various other visits, but this particular one was sure to be one she would never forget. She traveled from Beaver alongside members of her family, but she was the only commonwealth campus student participating in the event.
“The support from everyone here has been overwhelming. I felt like a lone wolf coming in, but they have been so welcoming,” says Burbage.
Burbage hopes that her performance will inspire other Penn State Beaver students to get more involved with THON. She is heavily involved at Beaver and hopes to continue to grow the program during the rest of her time there.
Their campus is small, but she hopes that she can now encourage more people to want to take action for the cause. In addition, she wants to encourage students from all other branch campuses to participate in more THON-related events.
As the winner of the THON showcase, Burbage will be returning to University Park THON weekend to perform, as well as getting a chance to perform during the kid’s fashion show at Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey.
Above all, she wants to continue to build Penn State Beaver’s THON initiatives in order to include more students and raise more critical dollars for the kids.
“We’re so small, but we actually can make an impact.”