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Feb. 22, 2011
Story By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Interfraternity Council Panhellenic Dance Marathon invites Four Diamonds Families to State College for one weekend each year to celebrate and dance for 46 consecutive hours.
However, the fun and excitement of THON was not only present in the confinements of the Bryce Jordan Center.
On Saturday, February 19, Associate Athletics Director for Football Fran Ganter welcomed 22 THON families to the Lasch Football Building for the afternoon for a special Make-A-Wish event hosted by the Nittany Lion Football team. An outstanding 42 Penn State football players hosted these lucky children and their families, and treated them to a tour of their very own sports facility.
Each THON family was paired up with two or three Nittany Lions for the afternoon, and went inside the locker rooms, training rooms lounges and offices of the football building. THON child Cora Beyer, 9, and her family had the pleasure of following redshirt freshmen Silas Redd and Mike Wallace around for what they said was one of their favorite events of the weekend.
Wallace and Redd first took Mr. and Mrs. Beyer, Cora and her two siblings Carter and Leyla into their spacious locker room. Wallace brought the kids over to his locker first, and let them try on his shoulder pads and helmet to see what it felt like to be in collegiate gear.
Redd then took the family to his locker, where he had a large bag of Mike and Ike candies waiting for them. However, the gift came with a price.
"If you do all of your chores and you clean your room, then you can have the Mike and Ikes," said Redd, trying to please Mr. and Mrs. Beyer as well.
The family also had a chance to see the training room and the weight room of the Lasch facility, where Wallace and Redd showed them a few of the best and worst workout machines.
Redd told the family how his least favorite machine was the leg press, while Wallace's was the stair-climber. With a little reassurance from the experienced athletes however, Carter, Cora and Leyla all tried out the two machines for themselves.
"We're nothing but big kids," assured Silas. "Don't let the muscles fool you."
The Beyers went on to explore the player's lounge complete with a pool and foosball table, the Morgan Academic Center where the team has time to do their schoolwork and listened to a short THON rap performance from Wallace. The family even got to go inside the office of beloved head coach Joe Paterno before the day was over.
The event was a success in more ways than one, drawing in more than 20 families for a fun afternoon that neither they nor players would forget. Stephanie Beyer, the mother of Cora, said that this is her family's third year participating in the Make-A-Wish tour and she is sure it won't be their last.
"I think it gives them a new perspective on the football players or on the athletics in general, especially as they get older," Mrs. Beyer said of her children. "Every football player we have ever met, whenever they see them on TV, it's bigger than Mickey Mouse. And it's good for me to see them have such respectable, good role models and they will leave here feeling like they are their best friends."
But Mrs. Beyer wasn't the only one who had a good time on the tour. Both Redd and Wallace said that the afternoon is one of their biggest highlights of THON weekend.
"I just can't wait to do it next year because for the next 3 or 4 years I have I definitely want to be a part of this," said Redd. "Like Fran [Ganter] said it's one of the best times of the year, it's one of the best days of the year."
"They're the inspiration you know," said Wallace. "They come here and have a great day in the Football building and a lot of people don't get the opportunity to do that but you know we don't get the opportunity to spend the day with great kids like this as well so it works both ways. It's just a great day for everybody."
The Penn State football administration would like to thank Michael Fullington of Fullington Trailways for providing transportation for the THON families from the Bryce Jordan Center, Jim Hopey of Penn State Food Services for donating food for the event and each of the families for participating.