THON Features: Shuman Set to Dance for a Cure

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ever since high school, Penn State's Charlie Shuman knew he would eventually dance at THON. Come Friday, he will join three other Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) representatives on floor at the Bryce Jordan Center for a 46-hour challenge unlike any other. 

As a football's SAAB representative, Shuman saw an email from head chair Angela Widlacki (women's soccer) in the fall asking if anyone had interest in dancing in THON 2017.  All he needed to do was reply and Widlacki would respond with instructions for interested candidates. 

"There were five of us in total who emailed in that we wanted to dance," Shuman said. "The thing with our organization is, since we're so busy as athletes, the big thing is that the top four people who raise the most amount of money will pretty much be selected." 

With a minimum fundraising goal set at $2,800, Shuman got work. He participated in the 100 Days 'til THON merchandise sale as well as a few other events that he could credit toward his total, even reaching out to family members and friends, all for the cause. In his hometown of Pittsford, New York, he set up donation boxes in each of the 22 physical therapy clinics owned by his parents. 

When the time came to submit numbers, Shuman's donations boxes totaled around $1,000, with his initial fundraising total coming in at about $3,500. He made it.

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"It all added up," Shuman said.

As registration deadlines for dancers drew closer, Widlacki gathered the group of four SAAB dancer candidates who met the fundraising goal for a meeting at 9 p.m. in East Area Locker Room.

"She sat us down and said, 'I already talked to Megan [Schafer] earlier and you guys are all so close with your money that you're going to have to write an essay,'" Shuman said.

Immediately disappointed, Shuman and the other three dancers slowly opened their laptops to get busy on the essay before Widlacki quickly exclaimed she was just kidding, they were all selected as dancers for THON 2017.

This weekend won't be Shuman's first trip to THON though, an energetic event widely regarded as the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

His freshman year he went for two hours and stayed in the stands at the Bryce Jordan Center. Last year that changed.

"Last year, my friend actually danced so I went down and saw her on the floor," Shuman said. "The floor is completely different from just sitting in the stands. I waited for like 13 hours just to get down on the floor."

Overcome with the electric energy on the floor, the experience only furthered his decision this fall. 

It wasn't exactly THON as an entire event that sparked his initial interest though, as his passion for helping families in need goes back to high school.

Shuman started "Big Helping Little" with the support of his family in high school as a project to organize fundraising efforts to benefit a local family from his hometown with a daughter suffering from a rare genetic mutation. 

It's his roots in the success of the project that give him something to look forward to the most. 

"Dealing with that and seeing how everything effected the family I helped initially, and now being able to dance and see all of the families down there dancing, interacting and taking themselves out of what they struggle with every single day is awesome," Shuman said.

Along with three other SAAB representatives and a host of morale captains and other THON volunteers surrounding him, Shuman's family will also be up for the entire weekend to show their support. 

"They are my two dancer support tickets so I'm guaranteed to see them at least twice during the weekend," Shuman said. "I don't know how long or when because they aren't supposed to tell us the time." 

With winter workouts underway, juggling everything from classes and lift sessions can present a bit of a challenge, but Shuman's not backing down from his usual schedule. 

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Come Thursday, Shuman will lift with the team as usual following a morning workout and then take only Friday off before THON begins. He'll be back at it by Monday.

With just a few days remaining, all that's left to do now is pack.

"They have a bunch of lockers in one room for us to put our stuff into, but it's really small. I think they are three feet by one foot," Shuman said.

As a six-foot-eight offensive lineman, that could make things a little interesting for Shuman when it comes to packing.

On the list so far, he has three pairs of shoes, flip flops, recovery pants and a Go Pro camera. 

"I'm still trying to figure it out, especially all of the little things," Shuman said with a laugh.

 A typical THON packing list suggests dancers bring a few extra shirts. 

"Obviously it's going to be hot and I'm not a small person," Shuman said. "I'm going to pack like eight shirts. They say like two or three, but that is not going to get me through the week." 

Shuman and the rest of the SAAB representatives take floor at the Bryce Jordan Center to begin their dance for the cure at 6 p.m. Friday. 

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