Daily Collegian Story - The Story of Leah Fait's Battle with Cancer and her relationship with Theta Chi and Tapestry Dance Company

As appeared in the Feb. 22, 2017 edition of The Daily Collegian

 Leah Fait and The Nittany Lion at THON 2017

Leah Fait and The Nittany Lion at THON 2017

Nearly nothing gets Leah Fait excited like Penn State’s THON. The little 5-year-old even got bad marks on her “behavior card” in her kindergarten classroom last Friday because she couldn’t pay attention.

THON 2017: “Igniting Hope Within” was Leah’s third successful dance marathon, and she got to share it with her two organizations: Tapestry Dance Company and greek organization, Theta Chi.

Tapestry’s President, Emily Newton, said they are a student-run organization, delivering different styles of tap, self-choreographed by its members, and they have been participating in THON far before she joined.

“We were paired with [Leah’s family] my sophomore year,” Newton (senior-kinesiology) said. “We actually got paired with her about three weeks before THON 2015.”

In June of 2014, when Leah was about 3-years-old, she was diagnosed with leukemia. In no time she was beginning chemotherapy treatment, essentially living in Hershey Medical Center, Newton said.

“Nurses said she was always the brightest child, just in emotion and energy,” Newton said. “Even if she like just had chemo she would stand by the elevator, and she would greet people who came onto the floor — her favorite thing to do.”

Currently living in Chambersburg Pennsylvania, Leah is taken care of primarily by her grandparents, Diane and Rick Fait.

Newton said the pair told her that, even in the hospital, Leah always had “bundles of energy” and was almost never lethargic. Apparently that is one thing that has never changed.

Leading up to her first THON, in 2015, Leah had just finished her treatment.

“She had just gotten off of in-patient treatment nearly two months before THON,” Newton said. “She was bright and bubbly as ever. She was grabbing water guns and bubbles, and she didn’t have to wear a mask or anything.”

Megan Burns, current secretary for her THON organization, said she got to meet Leah for the first time in the final hour of the 2015 dance marathon. Burns (senior-mechanical engineering) was Tapestry’s Family Relations Chair at the time.

“You know, it’s that last hour so you have to push through, but she made that last hour go by so fast,” Burn) said. “She really kept us going. I’ll never forget that. She was a ball of energy and everyone was so excited to see her.”

After her first THON, having already completed treatment, Leah had monthly visits to Hershey — simple check-ups to make sure her blood work came back okay. Newton said she just got approved to begin going every three months instead.

“We’ve actually met up with her a few times when she goes to Hershey,” Newton said. “She’s getting in the clear. As of a few months ago, she has been two years in remission, which is really big.”

Fast-forward to THON 2017, and Burns actually had the opportunity to represent her organization and dance for the entire 46 hours.

“I can’t even begin to describe it,” she said. “It flew by honestly, can’t believe it’s already over.”

Additionally, their organizations raised a combined $35,601.84 for Four Diamonds.

Ashley Passarello, one of Tapestry’s current family relations chairs, said THON 2017 was amazing, and she was extremely proud of her organization.

“We’re really happy about [our total],” Passarello (sophomore-criminology) said. “It was a little more than last year’s.”

Newton said Leah had as much energy as ever in this year’s dance marathon, getting to do even more activities than in years before, and her grandparents had a better idea of what was going on.

“They are just so thankful that Leah has so many people around her that want to help her and want to play with her,” Newton said. “They are really touched by all of the volunteers and everything they do.

Marissa Glovier, the organization’s other family relation’s chair, said Leah was really just a ball of energy.

“I was like chasing after her,” Glovier (sophomore-elementary education) said. “It was really fun.”

After the weekend came to a close, Leah was featured on the front page of The Daily Collegian’s THON issue on Monday, and the Tapestry members noticed.

“I freaked out,” Newton said. “I took Snapchats and sent them to everyone. I sent it to my parents, sent it to my boyfriend who is an alumnus, sent it in all of our group chats — everyone was just freaking out about it. That’s our child.”

Passarello said talk of the picture, as well as the shot itself, quickly filled the organization’s GroupMe, and everyone was over-the-moon.

“That was awesome,” Burns said. “I was just going to class, and I picked it up. I noticed it was Leah and I just started freaking out. ”

Glovier said many of the girls brag about Leah like she’s their own daughter, and when she saw the cover she was astounded.

Newton said the photo soon made its way to Facebook, and someone in her organization tagged Diane.

“She’s your typical Facebook grandma,” Newton said. “Diane loves all the pictures and she actually made it her profile picture.”

Coming out right after THON weekend, Newton said it made her extremely excited.

Looking into the future, Newton and many other Tapestry members know that with a disease like cancer life needs to be taken day-by-day, but also they remain very optimistic.

“Half of the battle is just having a positive attitude,” Newton said. “You see so many of these kids — they’re some of the most positive people you’ll ever meet. I would like to hope that her prognosis is going to be great.”

Passarello said it’s hard to even imagine her even being sick because she cannot imagine her not having the energy she does now.

Burns said as well that Leah has been doing very well health-wise, and she just hopes Leah will stay on the same track.

“I think she has a very bright future in front of her,” Burns said. “She has so much potential to do whatever she wants.”

Leah also just began kindergarten this year, and that is something Newton called an important “milestone” for her to pass.

“You know, every time we see her, her hair is a little bit longer, she has a bit more energy,” Newton said. “I’m very positive toward her journey.”

Onward State Story - Meet Theta Chi ‘Sweetheart’ Samantha Fisher

The below story appeareed on the Onward State website on Aug. 25, 2016 at http://onwardstate.com/2016/08/25/meet-theta-chi-sweetheart-samantha-fisher/

Theta Chi ‘Sweetheart’ Samantha Fisher with brothers - Aug. 2016

Whether they’re called White Roses or Sweethearts, some girls at colleges around the nation volunteer to be the feminine face of fraternities. What was once a tradition now seems rare, but Samantha Fisher is trying to keep the ritual alive.

Fisher, a senior engineering sciences major, describes her position as the “girl brother of the house.” She has all the benefits of being a brother, but doesn’t have to pay any dues. She parties with them, has a big role in recruitment, and is even in the composite. “Instead of cleaning, I bring baked goods,” Fisher said.

She doesn’t live in the Theta Chi house, but she does go to the parties early to clean up a little before everyone arrives. Fisher says she’s the mother figure of the house but feels like more of a friend. “A lot of the guys have questions on how to do the things that their moms or girlfriends did for them in high school, whether it’s laundry or cooking, and I’m here to help them out with that,” Fisher said. “But I’m also a quality wingman.”

Her other responsibilities include bringing a card and a baked good on birthdays and helping the brothers pick out a tie on a date. “They need a girl’s perspective,” Fisher said. Other times, they play video games, watch movies, or just hang out and have end-of-the-week relaxation time.

This position is traditionally held by a sorority sister, but being a member of Greek life isn’t mandatory.

Fisher claims being an independent makes her better at her ‘job.’ “Not being in a sorority makes me more available to them whenever they need me.”

So, what’s in it for her?

Theta Chi ‘Sweetheart’ Samantha Fisher - Aug. 2016

“Having people depend on me and want me to be around feels awesome,” Fisher said. “Changing someone else’s life by helping them gives me a sense of purpose. They get different things out of it, but I think I get a lot more out of it than they do. This year is going to be stressful for me but every time I walk in the door, I’m flooded with hugs. It’s honestly a fun job, and when I go out, I know I’m going to be safe because I have them with me. They protect me. Them being my support group is my favorite part of being the Theta Chi Sweetheart.”

Fisher found out about the position while she was at a Theta Chi party. One of the brothers mentioned it to her, so she applied off the cuff. “I wrote a cover letter,” Fisher said. “They printed it out and sent it around the house. I way over did it and I was so embarrassed. I felt like the teacher’s pet on the first day of school.”

Fisher tries to make it to the house at least once a week and on average spends about three to four days hanging out with the brothers. “These are my friends and I enjoy spending time with them,” Fisher said. “They’re not here to hit on me. It’s just like having biological brothers.”

Fisher is single for the meantime, but she thinks that if she had a boyfriend, he would be comfortable with her job. “They know there isn’t any competition,” Fisher said. “I have all male roommates, and they all think it’s really cool. I grew up with all guys, so it’s perfect for me.”

Fisher’s main objective is to perpetuate the sweetheart tradition in fraternities and to hopefully expand the position throughout Penn State. “If there’s one thing that I want to happen out of my position, it’s for this type of relationship with a sweetheart to continue, preferably more than in just my own frat,” Fisher said. “If another person can feel what I feel when I walk through those doors, everything I’ve done will be worth it.”

2014 THON - Bobby Family Kids Variety Performance - Daily Collegian

(From left) Alexis Bobby, 13, Ian Brodsky, AJ Bobby, 10, and Annabelle Bobby, 13, pose with the green tractor prop used in their Kid's Variety Show performance - THON 2014 - Feb. 22, 2014

Variety show brings motivation to dancers, brings fun for families

With the Bryce Jordan Center nearing capacity Saturday night, children took the stage to perform in the Kid's Variety Show.

Four Diamonds Fund children of all ages performed everything from One Direction songs to comedy routines to get the crowd going.

One group performed a THON-themed "Cup Song," with help from the Nittany Lion. Another, 6-year-old Andrew Woods, pumped up the crowd with his rendition of Chris Brown's "Yeah 3x."

One Four Diamonds family got up and sang "Big Green Tractor" by Jason Aldean with their organization, Theta Chi fraternity.

The three kids, AJ, 10, Annabelle and Alexis Bobby, 13, sang and danced to the country song with costumes of cowboy hats and props of a cardboard tractor.

Alexis, who gets stage fright, said she still performed because her brother made her. Regardless of being nervous, she said she still had fun.

"I did like being on the guy's shoulders," Alexis said.

She said her favorite part of THON is knowing that some day there will be a cure for cancer.

Alexis also said she and her sister are performing in their school's mini-THON, and currently have raised the most money.

AJ said his favorite part of being on stage was singing and dancing with his friends, while Annabelle said she most enjoyed "embarrassing" their fraternity brothers on stage.

Amanda, the kids' mom, said this THON was special for her because it is the first THON weekend in four that AJ isn't getting chemo treatment.

"[I love] seeing the smiles on my kids faces," she said.

This year, Amanda said she is just happy to see AJ really feeling better and more able to have fun and participate than in previous years.

For dancers, the Kid's Variety Show brought laughs, motivation and a reminder about what the weekend is about.

Alix Ressle, a dancer for Penn State Lehigh Valley, said he liked the the comedy act because while the jokes were geared towards kids, everyone in tje BJC was laughing and getting into them.

The variety show is a great way to show why everyone is here, Ressle (sophomore-mechanical engineering) said. 

"I think [the kids] are amazing, especially the way everyone reacts, too,"he said. "They're top notch."

Daily Collegian Story - Theta Chi and Tapestry wins first place in talent show

Daily Collegian Story - Theta Chi and Tapestry wins first place in talent show

In first place was Theta Chi & Tapestry’s circus themed dance routine featuring inspiration from the films like Madagascar and music choices that fit the theme as well as a tap-dance act from the Tapestry Dance Company.

Daily Collegian Story - John Boston Running for 2013 Homecoming Court

Homecoming court couple John Boston and Jessica Maynor stood in the fountain at the Penn State Arboretum, laughing as their clothes got soaked and their hair was drenched.

Daily Collegian Story - Ceremony Honors Lincoln Hall, First Black Dorm on Campus

By Trevor Horby - Collegian Staff Writer as printed in the Daily Collegian on April 23, 2012

When Wally Triplett — credited as the first African-American varsity football player at Penn State and part of the inspiration for the "We Are… Penn State" chant — arrived on campus, he had no place to sleep at night.

But then-football coach Bob Higgins directed him to Lincoln Hall, a small house off campus that housed black male students during a time that they were unable to stay in dorms.

Lincoln Hall Historical Marker - click to see larger

Triplett's story is typical of those early black students who found shelter at the residence.

Tucked a block past Atherton Street , 119 N. Barnard St. — better known as Lincoln Hall — received a historical dedication marker Friday to recognize the building's contributions to the Penn State African-American community.

The residence, named for Abraham Lincoln, operated as a boarding house under the Gifford family, a local State College family, for about eight black male students from the 1930s until the 1950s.

Black male students were barred from residence dorms from 1930-1946 due to an unofficial campus housing policy, said Penn State alum Darryl Daisey .

State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham at Giffy House Historical Marker Dedication on April 20, 2012

Several speakers addressed a small crowd before the historical marker was unveiled, the first being State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham . The ceremony will add Lincoln Hall and its marker to the sacred places to visit in State College, she said, because of the colossal contributions of the modest house to the community.

"The people who lived here and provided housing to the students deserve our recognition," she said. "They led the way when Penn State was a different place to live."

Daisey, Class of 1983, spoke next, extolling the Gifford family for their assistance in employing and housing black students and creating a network for the early generations of black students.

  Lincoln Hall Dedication Program - Click to Download

Lincoln Hall Dedication Program - Click to Download

Lincoln Hall provided a safe harbor for these students to grow in a segregated world, which was crucial to break down racial barriers, he said. The house produced many esteemed alumni who paved the way for future generations of black students, he said.

"The building was a catalyst to the diverse population at Penn State today," he said.

Two of the three surviving Lincoln Hall residents, Triplett and Clayton Wilson III , also spoke at the ceremony.

Triplett, Class of 1949, spoke about how Lincoln Hall and black Penn State students set the stage for future generations.

And on a weekend that Penn State turns its attention back to football, he credited football for helping to desegregate Penn State and said the desegregation of the campus and football team for creating the modern National Football League.

"Whenever you look at the NFL, which is the largest thing going today, trickle that down to the fact that the seed that was planted that started this negro into the NFL started right here at Penn State," he said. "And it started here in Lincoln Hall."

Wilson III, Class of 1949, said Lincoln Hall filled a very vital role in supplying housing and serving as a social center for African American students. The house launched many students, Wilson included, on "a successful and productive life," he said.

Celiena Bady , the president of the Penn State Chapter of the NAACP, said that preserving the history of African-Americans at Penn State was critical and that hopefully the marker would bring more recognition to the importance of Lincoln Hall.

"It is known a people without a history aren't a people at all. Let our history shine on this campus," Bady (junior-international politics) said. "More importantly, I hope the students reflect on this marker and continue to support one another, assist one another, and foster our talents as we achieve unity."

Download Dedication Program

CDT Story - Giffy's Lincoln Hall Historical Marker Dedication Ceremony

Black Student Home Dedicated

April 21, 2012 

Written by By Jessica VanderKolk for the Centre Daily Times

STATE COLLEGE — A home painted shades of gray at 119 N. Barnard St. was called a "safe harbor" and "beautiful" on Friday, among the tributes offered by former residents, other Penn State alumni and local officials.

In the Holmes-Foster neighborhood, minutes from campus and downtown, sits Lincoln Hall, a house built in 1910 that housed black male students from the 1930s to the 1950s.

 Click to Download Program

Click to Download Program

For unknown reasons, black women could live in university dorms.

"Penn State didn't have an official policy that didn't allow black males on campus, but it was an unofficial one," said 1983 graduate

Darryl Daisey, who spoke about the home's history during a dedication Friday afternoon.

Earlier this week, a maintenance crew placed the new historic plaque on the front of the home, gave the porch a fresh coat of paint, and installed a bright, white lattice on which vines could grow. A similar feature can be seen in a photo from the 1940s.

Wally Triplett, a 1949 graduate and former Lincoln Hall resident, said his luck started in the house, and that he's "the luckiest guy in the world." Triplett was one of Penn State's first black varsity football players.

"I found out I was in the company of real students," he said. "There were no keys; nobody locked the doors. That's the kind of community it was."

The house was operated by Harry and Rosa Gifford, their children Bessie and Emanuel, and Emanuel's wife, Agnes. The family worked as cooks in Penn State fraternity houses.

Clayton Wilson III, also a 1949 graduate and Lincoln Hall resident, met Agnes Gifford in one of those kitchens before he moved into the house. He roomed with 1948 graduate Perry Smith and met his wife while at Penn State.

"This was a very happy time for me," he said.

Wilson said Lincoln Hall filled a "vital role" in the community.

"It helped launch me on a successful and productive life," he said.

Daisey didn't live in Lincoln Hall, but is part of the Penn State Black History Project that researched the home's history.

About two years ago, Daisey and the project confirmed that Lincoln Hall still existed. Then they sought to hold Friday's dedication and educate people about the home's history.

"You want to make sure people understand and appreciate where you are today," he said. "There's a really inspiring story there. Even though this was a segregated area, there was a lot of support there for the handful of black students on campus."

According to the borough rental permit for the house, Lincoln Hall has two apartments and seven rooms. It is not classified as a student home.

Roy Grant moved into the house just a couple of months ago, after arriving from New York. He works as a mechanic nearby.

Grant said he didn't know of the home's history.

"I think it'd be something special," he said.

Penn State senior Nick Desloges, who has lived in the house since January and attended Friday's ceremony, said he came home Monday to find the plaque installed. He said he didn't know the home's history until reading about it and talking to the maintenance crew sprucing up the place.

"I thought it was the coolest thing," he said, offering to take the former residents inside for a tour.

Click to Download Dedication Program

CDT Story - Br. John Mika '85 running for PSU BOT

Three more Penn State alumni eye board of trustees seat

Three more Penn State graduates have announced their plans to run for seats on the board of trustees, bringing the number of candidates to 22.

John J. Mika, a 1985 graduate in secondary education; Ryan Hall, a 2002 graduate in journalism; and Edward "E.J." Van Istendal, a 2002 graduate in media studies, are seeking seats. Three of the nine alumni seats are up for election this year.

Mika said he does not think trustees did a good job handling the university's crisis.

"There was a quick semi-secret reaction to the situation without waiting for due process of the law and a vote which did not represent the voice of the majority of Penn State alumni," Mika said in an email.

He said that if he's elected he will push for more openness.

A Tower City resident, Mika is a teacher with the federal Bureau of Prisons. While at Penn State, he played on the Schuylkill men's basketball team and was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity.

Hall and Van Istendal issued a joint news release announcing their plans to run for a seat on the board. They also say there is a need for transparency on the board.

"We love this university and could not stand idly by while it slipped from its position as one of the most respected educational institutions in the world," Hall said.

"There is a lot of anger right now, and too much has been yielded to the mob mentality that has taken root over recent events at Penn State," Van Istendal said. "We must endure, but it's obvious that new leadership is needed."

Hall is the night city editor and photo editor for the Great Falls Tribune in Great Falls, Mont., where he lives.

Van Istendal lives in Purcellville, Va., and is a federal police officer.

The two say that while they are "unconventional" candidates and not experienced as bureaucrats, that would help them as trustees.

"We need trustees who will examine the facts, communicate the board's feelings to the alumni, faculty and students — and hear from them — not ones who have knee-jerk reactions," they said in their release.

This year's trustees race continues to draw an unusual level of interest as alumni express a desire for change on the board. Many have criticized the board's handling of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

The names of trustees candidates who meet the qualifications to will be announced March 1. Ballots will be distributed to alumni electronically April 10 and must be submitted by May 3.

The winners will be announced at the trustees' meeting during graduation weekend.

 

Daily Collegian Story - Br. Greg Smith on Recuperating after THON

Dancers refelct and recuperate following THON

By Sam Janesch - Collegian Staff Writer
as Printed in the Daily Collegian on February 21, 2012

After lying in bed for a few hours and remaining relaxed, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences dancer Greg Smith said he got up around noon and enjoyed the fresh air outside — something he said he missed in his 46 hours inside the Bryce Jordan Center.

"I slept for 17 hours," Smith (senior-geobiology) said. "That's the longest I've ever slept."

College of Earth and Mineral Sciences dancer Greg Smith stretches out at Recreation Hall the day after THON. credit: Sarah Finnegan/CollegianDancers physically and mentally recuperated on Monday after standing for more than 46 hours straight during the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.

When they entered the world outside of the Bryce Jordan Center for the first time in nearly two days, dancers headed for the comfort of their beds to rest their fatigued bodies.

"I've been strolling the streets of State College enjoying the wind and the weather," Smith said.

LIFE Housedancer Nate Jacobs, who slept for 14 hours, said a friend recommended that he take a shower before he went to sleep.

Though Jacobs (junior-immunology and infectious disease) admitted that he almost fell asleep in the shower, he said it was a great idea. When he woke up he felt wide-awake and not fatigued at all, he said. Besides meeting one friend, Jacobs said he relaxed all day and was feeling good.

"I took a personal day," he said. "Missing two classes was not going to affect me that much."

While some dancers seemed willing to miss a few classes on Monday, others made the effort to get back on schedule as early as possible.

"I slept for 14 hours and probably would have kept sleeping if I didn't have class," National Society of Collegiate Scholars dancer Lauren Leight said.

Though she said it was still tough for her to wake up after so much sleep, Leight (senior-psychology) said she made the effort to get to class because her teachers tend to take attendance or have in-class assignments.

"I was OK once I was up and moving" she said.

Many dancers said that though the physical stresses were extreme, on Monday they felt strong and more mentally tired than physically.

"My feet don't hurt and my muscles surprisingly don't feel sore," Smith said.

Smith said he hoped to get back to the gym this week as he planned to ease his way back into his workouts. He even related THON to an important sports game where one might feel more tired and sore than usual.

Leight was still reflecting on all her memories of the weekend but also said she is experiencing little pain following the marathon. She will continue to take it easy this week as she gets back to homework and back on a schedule.

"I don't know if it's odd or if it hasn't hit me yet or if it's the adrenaline from this weekend," she said.

In the months leading up to THON, many dancers prepared by exercising frequently and giving up caffeine or junk food. On Monday, some of them reintroduced themselves to their old habits.

"I had my first cup of coffee in about two months, and I couldn't handle it," Smith said. "I kind of got a little loopy."

Though Jacobs said he was not "a huge caffeine addict," he did drink a Pepsi soda for the first time since New Year's Day.

"All the preparations really helped leading up to THON, especially doing ab workouts because your back gets pretty sore, too," he said.

For the rest of the week, he will continue to relax, get plenty of sleep and exercise a little to get his body back into shape, he said. He also said he would stretch anything that was sore.

The dancers also had some moments this weekend when they might have struggled, such as late in the evening, or when their legs were especially sore, Smith said.

"I would say my lowest point was early Sunday morning right after Mail Call, which might be strange because Mail Call is supposed to pump you up, but I think that I just hadn't eaten enough," Smith said. "Luckily, I had a lot of my fellow organization members there."

Smith gave all the credit to his moraler, Kari Lunden, who found him food in his time of need and gave him all the motivation he could ask for.

"I love her and thank her for all the support," Smith said.

Jacobs commended the support of the morale captains as they fixed many situations quickly which dealt with dancer problems. Eventually every dancer he saw got better, he said.

Jacobs and Leight also said that some of the moments they struggled the most were when their moralers were absent, and they waited for their friends who were stuck in the line for the PASS system for up to hours. Dancers often waited for the motivational support they needed, they said.

"The worst part, I think, was Friday night or Saturday morning before the kids got there and my moraler was not there, and there was an issue with the PASS list so we were kind of alone," Jacobs said.

Leight said that by the time her friends got through the PASS system line, there might have been someone else waiting to come down because their schedule was thrown off.

"I was waiting for one my friends," Leight said. "They got stuck in the line for a few hours, but they eventually got down."

Though they faced some trying times this THON Weekend, dancers said they know there were plenty of special moments and it was great for the kids.

"I expected it to be an amazing weekend," Leight said, "and it was above and beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of."

Daily Collegian - Homecoming Photo

L to R: Greg Black, Troy Slack and Alex Tessmer - Members of the Society of Women Engineers and Theta Chi Fraternity wave to the crowd from their Super Mario Bros. themed float during the 2011 Homecoming Parade - Courtesy of the Daily Collegian