Since 1973, Penn State students have participated in the year-long fundraising efforts that benefit Four Diamonds at Penn State Children’s Hospital. What started as an opportunity for students to give back to the community has transformed into what is now the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, with over 16,500 student participants.
But who exactly is behind the operations of this amazing event? The answer to that question is simple: Penn State students—through different organizations and THON committees. There are 17 different committees, each with responsibilities that can range from something like changing the paper towel rolls in the BJC bathrooms to encouraging the dancers throughout the weekend and helping them through any emotional bumps in the road.
VALLEY took to campus to interview Kate O’Connor, a sophomore telecommunications major, who has been a part of a THON committee during her past two years at Penn State. Here’s how joining a THON committee has impacted her THON experiences.
VALLEY: What made you want to join a THON committee?
Kate O’Connor: Ever since I decided to come to Penn State, THON was definitely something I was super interested in and wanted to contribute towards and be a part of. I know upperclassmen that were a part of THON committees and they told me what an amazing experience it was as a freshman and how you become so close with the members of your committee, so I applied. I love keeping busy and staying involved with things, so it was awesome to have that as soon as I started here at Penn State.
V: What committee are you a part of this year, and what types of things do you do to prepare for THON?
KO: Last year I was a part of OPPerations, and this year I’m on Dancer Relations. Preparing for THON is a great deal of work, but tons of fun throughout the school year. We have meetings every Tuesday night and a couple of events held per month. My meetings this year are centered around preparing and training for how we can help the dancers the best we can during THON weekend.
V: What sort of expectations did you have before joining a committee and how did this experience exceed them?
KO: This year, I expected to have a lot of fun being a part of a THON committee, especially Dancer Relations. THON 2017 was amazing, and I was beyond excited for a new experience and to be able to have extensive time on the floor with the dancers, families and kids. What definitely exceeded my expectations was how much the people on my committee would mean to me. They are some of the most beautiful, genuine and kindest people I have ever met and it makes my weeks all the more brighter having meetings and events to go to with them. They’re crazy fun and always work so hard and it truly makes me feel so fortunate to have met all 36 of them. My captain, Lulu Hamm, is also one of the best additions I could have ever asked for my sophomore year. I can’t begin to describe the immense amount of respect I have for her, as well as the rest of my committee members.
V: How has being a part of a THON committee changed your perspective on THON?
KO: Before you attend THON at Penn State, you really try to understand the energy and emotion of the weekend, but like everyone says it is not the same until you are there. I have always thought THON was an incredible thing offered by the school, however, my positive perspective skyrocketed after joining a committee and seeing how much work is really put into the weekend—and to think that it is all being done by students like us. The people I meet through different THON committees are always willing to lend a helping hand, and that’s solely the beauty of THON. I am so lucky to be a part of my sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma as an organization during THON weekend as well, but I feel so blessed and excited to be able to get the full effect of interacting with the dancers, playing with the kids and helping conduct such an impactful and incredible weekend.
If you didn’t apply for a THON committee this year or are just interested in getting more involved this year, you should think about applying next year to be on one of the many committees in September.