Over the course of her five years here at Penn State, Katie Mailey has seen every side of THON, from participating as a committee member, to dancing her junior year. It wasn’t until she was a fifth-year senior that she decided she wanted to oversee the entire event as the executive director.
“Part of the reason why I was so passionate about doing that is because I wanted to give back in any way that I could. I’m never going to be able to be a doctor or a nurse, but I can combine my skills and my passion for business with THON,” Mailey says.
One of Mailey’s favorite memories from THON 2016 was watching the entire BJC do the dab together from the stage. “It seems so cheesy,” she says, “but it was so cool because you just see all these people that are coming together to do the same thing for one cause.”
Mailey says some of the hardest parts about transitioning into her role as the executive director was not being involved in every little thing, learning how to say no and scheduling much needed down time.
In addition to overseeing all aspects of planning, preparing and executing THON 2016, the executive director also gets a seat on the Four Diamonds Advisory Board. Mailey got to sit in on meetings and help the board with the allocation process. “I think it’s really unique because we are such a large donor for them,” she says. “It’s really cool to have that perspective and be able to go to those meetings and have a really good understanding of what is happening in four diamonds.”
A big focus for Mailey this year was not focusing on the dollar amount and instead remind others why we’re here. “One of my directors phrased it really well — it’s the most significant and also the least significant number because it’s never going to be representative of what THON is able to do,” says Mailey. “Whether you’re raising a dollar or nine million dollars, you’re making an impact.”
While we raise millions of dollars for THON each year and change the lives of many children and families, Mailey believes there’s even more to being a part of the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. “I think that THON is developing the next generation of student leaders and philanthropists. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most incredible people,” she says.
Mailey hopes that students don’t loose their passion for THON post-graduation, because she isn’t either. “Being able to spread THON’s mission wherever I go after college, I think that students have a huge opportunity to do that and I think we created the alumni engagement committee last year to get people back involved,” she says.
Like Penn State, THON doesn’t have to vanish from your life once you’ve left Happy Valley.