2/5/2024: Brooks West

To my FOTO fam,
If you’re wondering who the hell are all of these Alumni that reminisce about the past and tell me to go to meetings and bake sales every Monday, that’s definitely fair. But for me, FOTO was truly my life in college and I wouldn’t change anything about that from my years at Penn State, I even have the tattoo to prove it. No matter how many hours I put in w/ being on the board for three years, dancing in THON, and being president – FOTO has given me a lot more than I’ve given it. It had this amazing way of giving you more than what you put in. You guys are so lucky to have a new family this year and build that love and trust with them. It’s a special bond that you have with the family being the first people that introduce them into THON and they are going to have a lifelong memory in just a couple weeks.
My first little piece of advice, especially cause you all will finally be packing the stands of the BJC so soon, is MAKE FRIENDS IN FOTO. The relationships are real. If you take one thing from me, truly try to make friends in FOTO. And it’s not too late. When love was still alive, I became friends with and dated a girl that I dated for 4 years AT THON and remember the exact moment to this day during our “jersey theme” hour. Literally just jumping around in the stands delirious for hours. Talk to people and will pay off. Every single day I talk to someone in FOTO. I became friends with fellow alum Josh Brodie in the stands and now 90% of my Instagram following think he’s my boyfriend.  Don’t stand next to the person you know and are friends with already, talk to people you don’t usually talk to. Do the overnight shift and meet people, vibe, get deep, laugh, - it will make it go much much quicker too and you’ll forget how bad your feet hurt.
FOTO gave me lifelong friendships that I couldn’t dream of not having anymore. FOTO gave me that one group chat of guys that you still talk in everyday 4 years after you graduated (love to Broken Hearts & Basketball). FOTO gave me a group of girls that I walk into their house every weekend to catch up and chat (Love to Taney and former pres Liv Body). FOTO gave my twin sister her boyfriend, Jake, who she lives with and a wedding should be around the corner soon (she hopes). FOTO gave me some rascals to run around Mexico listening to Noah Kahan and Mt Joy with. FOTO gave me my holidate to take anywhere I need a plus one, love you Erin and my best friend I call it every week 3,000 miles away in LA, love u Teen. FOTO gave me my WORLD after I left Penn State for the rest of my life. Find your people in FOTO and no matter what happens, you’ll never regret that. When people say FOTO is family, that’s what they mean, and I promise that’s not just bullshit. PLEASE take my advice on this!!

I’ve told this story every time I’ve done an alumni of the week but it’s too good not to, The reason you’re locked in and ready for THON, the reason you’re all in FOTO is for the kids. My favorite memory about the kids in FOTO came with Logan and Matty (not to downplay Megan – she’s literally a goat and the Queen of FOTO). But before I got in FOTO, when my older sister was in it, Logan was going through chemo and cancer. You see him not as a ninja warrior and almost forget he went through a lot of the worst days of his life with FOTO. But when Logan was on his last day of chemo. He beat cancer. He was in tears, crying to his mom, and asked her “Does this mean I won’t get to see FOTO anymore because I don’t have cancer?” In his darkest days he made it out alive and was more worried about seeing FOTO. When someone asks you why you THON, why you’re in FOTO – think of that, think of just how much you all mean to all three of our families.
When Matty was also going through chemo when I was in FOTO and very involved, I remember being at the Tramels in their basement – utter chaos. Running around, toys everywhere, screaming, nerf bullets whizzing all around. Matty calmly said hold on. Went to the bathroom. Threw up. Washed his hands and came back to play. In that moment it made me realize just how strong those kids were. No matter what was going on in my life, the stress of college, an exam – that little kid was going through cancer and doing it with a smile on his face. The strength of our FOTO families are remarkable and we should all try to live our lives with that bravery. Think of that if you’re tired during THON, next year when your feet hurt in the stands, when you’re just having a bad day – think of their incredible strength. 
THON is emotional so be prepared for one of the best weekends of your life. Four years ago in the stands, when we saw our total. I cried. All of the hard work shows in that moment. You see the total and you should all feel something. You should feel proud. Know your efforts and the money you raised makes a difference. Make friends, laugh and cry with FOTO, love the families, and just have fun those 4 years you get it. Cause like me now, I miss it so much. But I am so happy I got my friends and family for life. I love all of you guys even the ones I haven’t met cause you’re carrying on a legacy that means the world to me. Good luck, I’m proud of you, crush it so soon!


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