Ohana Means Family

Photo by Jordan Pietrafitta

Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten. Such is the motto and namesake of the THON special interest organization, Ohana. As one of the top three special interest organizations at Penn State, Ohana and its multitude of active members are dedicated to raising money for the Four Diamonds fund and for the children at Hershey Medical Center affected by pediatric cancer.

Claire Pomorski, the President of Ohana and a senior studying nutritional sciences and dietetics, says, “As our name suggests, we want to make members feel like part of a family among an enormous student population. Something that I strive for, as President, is to be approachable and welcoming so that every student can find their place and their friends in Ohana. This organization has opened my eyes to the work that the Four Diamonds does for these families, and that truly drives my passion and dedication more than anything.”

Ohana is made up of eight smaller families within the large family of the organization, in order to make it easier for members to meet and get to know new people. The eight families, the stingrays, sharks, barracudas, sea turtles, piranhas, dolphins, goldfish and starfish, are fish-themed to fit with the overall Hawaiian and ocean theme of the organization.

Connor Aldea, a senior studying nuclear engineering and the Ohana Family Facilitator (OFF/dad) of the sea turtle family, says, “What I love about Ohana is that it isn’t just a group of friends—we are a family. That’s not just in our fish-themed ‘families;’ it’s the feeling of being a part of something where everyone is so motivated for a cause and always looking to be your friend and brighten your day. I have met some of the greatest friends I will have from Ohana, and I am always grateful for what this organization has given me.”

Ohana had multiple fundraising weekends this year, and as an organization, Ohana has managed to find some alternative fundraisers, such as canvassing and ribboning, to replace the lack of canning this year and in future years.

Kaitlyn Amaro, a sophomore studying marketing and a captain in the stingray family, says, “I love that when I joined Ohana, I didn’t realize it at first, but I had joined a second family. Since coming to college, I’d say that joining Ohana was my best decision because I met my best friends, and I’ve made a difference in the lives of children with cancer. I look forward to fundraising weekends because they’re an opportunity to bond with my closest friends while making a difference in the lives of so many children.”

Ohana has been assigned four lovely THON families, the Good family, the Wilson family, the Dawson family and the Brysiak family, since its founding as an organization in 2008.

Marissa Zollner, a senior studying communication sciences and disorders and the Admin for Ohana, says, “This year Ohana really went above and beyond with its fundraising effort. We have two amazing fundraising chairs who have worked endlessly to come up with creative alt funds and to organize large trips. We definitely noticed the loss of canning but we 100 percent made up for it elsewhere. I’m so proud of the fundraising Ohana has done, and I can’t wait to see our total be revealed!”

The Executive Board, OFFs, Captains and all of the amazing general org members have made this school year an amazing Ohana success.

Rose McDaid, a freshman studying kinesiology and a general org member of Ohana, says, “I knew from the first meeting that Ohana was the THON org I wanted to join. It’s really the best of both worlds in the ‘org world;’ we’re small enough to be tight knit and big enough to be a fundraising force to be reckoned with. To say Ohana is my family would be an understatement. I just joined this fall, but unfortunately, I had to leave school shortly after. Since then, my Ohana family has made sure to stay in touch and include me in any fundraisers and activities I can get to! The only way to describe this group is that “Ohana means Family, and Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

Look out for their sea of orange in the stands at THON!!

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