Happy Valley takes to the high seas in March for the inaugural Happy Valley Charter Cruise. The historic first celebrates all things Nittany Lions with an all-star lineup of famous faces from throughout the years, including your captain, Sue Paterno, the Paterno family, Russ Rose, Ki-Jana Carter, Franco Harris, Michael Robinson and more.
The best part of it all? The proceeds go to a worthy cause — Special Olympics Pennsylvania.
“Anytime we can raise money for Special Olympics, I’m game,” said Sue Paterno, who has been involved with Special Olympics Pennsylvania since the mid-1980s and has been on its board since 1991. “I first went to volunteer because I felt like I should, but then I got hooked. I’ve obviously been hooked very deeply. I just love who they are, what they do and who they’re becoming…”
The Happy Valley Cruise could play a huge role in exactly what Special Olympics Pennsylvania becomes over the next several years. Eric Cushing, vice president of marketing and development at Special Olympics Pennsylvania, notes the organization is in the midst of a campaign called Inclusion Revolution, which could greatly broaden its reach.
“We currently serve 18,000 athletes statewide — can we serve 36,000 athletes statewide? Can we serve 50,000 athletes statewide?” says Cushing. “Any six-figure fundraiser or over six-figure fundraiser [like the Happy Valley Cruise] has the chance to have a profound impact on what we’re trying to do in Pennsylvania.”
Beyond the charitable aspect of the cruise, Penn State fans and alumni have plenty of reasons to jump onboard. Programming over the course of the cruise, which departs from Port Canaveral, Fla., making stops at “Paternoville” CocoCay Island, Nassau and Paradise Island before returning. It includes dedicated days to honor special moments in Penn State history, such as the 1982 and 1986 football championships. Activities range from a sail away tailgate to a white out deck party, film screenings to “Happy Valley Dancing with the Stars.”
“There are different activities that occur every day that are really focused on honoring special moments in Penn State history, from football to volleyball championships, certainly honoring the guests that are onboard,” says David Wells, publisher at Pennsylvania Business Central, who’s been busy helping the cruise team gain traction throughout the region. “So with that being said, I think that [for] the people that have been a part of Penn State football tradition through the years, this is just a great opportunity for them to connect, for them to get together with people that they go to the games with, that they tailgate with, for them to do one giant tailgate out on the ocean.”
However, the hope is not to just attract cruisers from the State College area, but Penn State fans and alumni from all over the country and the world.
“They’ll have a blast,” Paterno says. “They’ll be with a bunch of people they know, a bunch of other Penn Staters who get along very well together.”
“I think it could be one of the most unique, fun, festive, original cruise experiences that anybody could possibly have and, on top of that, benefitting a really, really great cause with Special Olympics,” Cushing adds.
Wells confirms the sentiment. “It’s a nice way for people to connect with friends, relive the special moments in history, to be part of something historic and, at the end of the day, benefit something that’s pretty amazing and that’s Special Olympics Pennsylvania.”
The Happy Valley Charter Cruise takes place March 4–8, 2019. More information can be found and bookings made at happyvalleycruise.com.