By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend
It was hour 32 of THON, and Taylor Hennon ’13 had hit the wall.
She was exhausted and sleepy. Her emotions bordered delirium. This is all par for the course with THON, Penn State’s 46-hour dance marathon designed to raise money to support children and families as they combat pediatric cancer.
But then came Mail Call, an event during THON weekend in which dancers receive letters and packages from friends, family and supporters to inspire and motivate them to continue dancing. Hennon had no idea she was about to receive the biggest pick-me-up imaginable.
The final letter she read came from Timmy Donovan ’13, her boyfriend, whom she first met five years earlier during a trip to Germany while they were both students at Penn State Behrend.
“There were a lot of references to the future. In his letter, he wrote of how proud my grandma would be of me,” says Hennon, who graduated from Penn State Behrend in 2013 and is now pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at University Park. “Then, right after, he asked me (to marry him). I just remember hugging him, and he said, ‘I have something of your grandma’s that I really want to give to you.’”
For Donovan and Hennon, THON, which was held February 20-22 this year at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center, was the perfect venue for a proposal. For the past four years, it’s been a staple in their relationship. For the proposal, Donovan used Hennon’s grandmother’s ring, which made the moment even more meaningful.
“I knew THON would be the right way to (propose) because it has been such a big part of our relationship,” says Donovan, who graduated from Penn State Behrend in 2013 and is now pursuing a master’s degree in higher education at University Park. “It’s always been the mainstay in our relationship.”
Following the proposal, it was not long before the entire Bryce Jordan Center caught on to what was happening.
“There was this moment where I opened my eyes and looked around, and the entire Bryce Jordan Center is watching us and applauding. It was surreal,” Donovan says.
The timing of the proposal also helped reenergized Hennon, who danced independently in this year’s THON. From that point on, she was excited to share the news with her mother, who joined her on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center around 7 a.m. Sunday morning.
According to Donovan and Hennon, the significance of THON in their relationship cannot be understated. While at Behrend, the two both became involved during junior year and as seniors, Hennon was Behrend’s THON chair, and Donovan was a dancer.
Throughout their involvement, the two endured a breakup, but their connection to THON kept them close.
“Our whole senior year, we were broken up, but we were still working together. No matter what, we realized that us working toward finding the cure for pediatric cancer was more important than any fight or any awkward moment we could have,” Donovan says. “Sure, there were awkward moments, but we always said THON was bigger than both of us, and that actually made us stay friends.”
Shortly after graduating from Behrend, the two got back together.
Regardless of what journey awaits the two, THON is certain to remain a crucial part of their lives and relationship. They have already planned to include members of their THON family, Rylee and Dalaney Dorer, in their wedding.
“It’s just that important to us,” Hennon says. “It’s amazing now that every year, I get to have a constant reminder of how all this came to be.”