1/7/19: Alyssa Belz

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Name:  Alyssa Belz
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

FOTO cred: Danced in THON 2013, Fundraising Officer 2012-13, DAR Officer 2013-14

Walking into the BJC for the first time at THON as a freshman, is honestly still one of my all time favorite memories/feelings IN GENERAL not just THON related memories. If I could give some advice to anyone who will be experiencing THON for the first time this year, it would be to take in every emotion, feeling, sight, etc. that you can. It will be overwhelming, but in the best sense of the word. Videos and pictures truly do not do it justice.

Similar to the above: walking into the BJC as a dancer was insane. The feeling on the floor is like nothing else. The energy was crazy and I was just filled with so many emotions and memories of what led to that instant.

One of my favorite memories was during the final four hours as a dancer. Angels Among Us came on (cue the tears) and we all got into our circle. All the FOTO dancers, our friends/families who had floor passes, and the Knapers and Eslingers were all arm in arm. Then Emily Whitehead and her family were looking for a circle to join and came up to ours. It was right after she had bounced back from her miraculous recovery and it was so emotional having her and her family there at that moment. It all became so real then, what THON does. Without THON, Emily would absolutely not have been standing in that circle for us. For anyone who doesn't know Emily's story, I highly recommend reading about her. She is an immensely inspirational little girl.

Some of my other favorite memories are the simple times spent with the families. We spent a night babysitting Megan and Austin while Deb and Kevin went out on a date night for Deb's birthday. We made a birthday cake for Deb, watched the Lion King, and just had fun being kids. The pool parties at the Knapers were always a blast. The kids love our visits and you KNOW they go bragging to their friends at school when a bunch of college kids came to spend the day with them over the weekend haha!

To me FOTO is more than just a "club." I know it's cliche, but it really is family. What FOTO does makes a difference. It gives the kids and the families time to think about something other than their child's illness. We allow kids to be kids again, and take a huge stress off of parents. That's seriously something to be proud of.

Advice that I would give to the members is: Take in every small moment of being involved in something so much bigger than just a 46 hour dance marathon. Take in the meetings where you drag yourself out of your warm apartment on a snowy night so you can brainstorm fundraisers, and maybe see an officer get pied in the face. You'll miss those moments! Take advantage of every time you can participate in a fundraiser, go see the families, volunteer, socialize, etc.

And lastly some advice to the dancers: I ran a marathon with my mom and fiance a few years ago. They asked me what was harder: running 26.2 miles or dancing in THON. Without hesitation, I said dancing. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, to date, but it was an experience I would never take back. It's truly unexplainable. You will hurt, you will be tired, you will want to give up. But you can't. You'll be ready to give up and sit down, and then a kid will run by you with a squirt gun and you remember why you are doing this. For them. So in the meantime, take in every single second. It's a once in a lifetime thing. Then it will be time to sit, and it's like as much as you want it to be over, you don't. You'll have done something to look cancer in the face and tell it that we will beat it!!

 

For the Kids, Alyssa

 

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