Behind THON: A Penn State Philanthropy
Oct 29, 2020
Introduction and Interviews by Caroline Skou
Check out the THON Collection!
THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. The first time someone told me this fact about THON I almost couldn't believe it, but the numbers add up; 16,500 student volunteers, 4,000 families helped, and $180,000,000 raised.
For those who don’t already know, THON is a philanthropy run by Penn State students with the goal to provide emotional and financial support, spread awareness, and ensure funding for critical research—all in pursuit of a cure for cancer! Their year long efforts in fundraising finally culminates in a 46-hour dance marathon! At Kyle Cavan we’re excited to be partnering with THON this year, and From October 20, 2020 through October 19, 2021, we will donate 22% of net sales from the THON Collection to THON each month; 12% will be paid directly to the THON Licensing Committee and 10% will be allocated to the organization that the customer chooses at checkout. THON is changing lives, and we’re excited to help in reaching goals this year!
Even though THON has thousands of volunteers, each one has such an individualized experience; how they joined and their favorite moments. For this MMXX moment, We asked three seniors, Kate Colgan, Nina Trach, and Kayla Westergaard to reflect on their last 3 years doing THON, and how they see the philanthropy affecting their lives moving forward.
How were you first introduced to THON? How would you describe your first experience contributing to the organization?
Kate: My cousins have been involved in THON for my entire life! My first experience contributing to the organization was amazing, it was one of the most incredible feelings to know that I was a part of bringing something that brings so much joy to life.
Nina: I first learned about THON from my dad, a Penn State alumnus. When I was younger, we'd see groups of THON volunteers fundraising near my hometown in New Jersey. He never missed an opportunity to celebrate how far THON efforts reach and brag about the fact that they were Penn Staters too. I knew as soon as I got to Penn State that I wanted to contribute to such an important and impactful cause. I couldn't wait to apply for a THON committee my first year on campus and to be a part of the largest student-run philanthropy in the world!
Kayla: I was first introduced to THON at the Penn State involvement fair my freshman year. I grew up in New Jersey, where we didn't really have much exposure to THON. When I came to school here, everyone seemed so involved and enthusiastic, and I knew almost immediately that I wanted to be a part of it. Over the past 3 years as a THON volunteer I've had incredible experiences with the organization, made friendships that will last a lifetime, and have grown so much as an individual.
Are you a part of any volunteer committee? How has your experience been? Do you have a favorite part of being in your committee?
Nina: I've been a committee member on both the Rules and Regulations Committee (THON 2018) and the Special Events Committee (THON 2020). This year my involvement in THON is through fundraising for Lion Ambassadors THON efforts and supporting my friends going through the independent dancer couple process and serving as committee members, captains and directors. Being a part of different committees helped me to understand all of the passion and hard work that goes into making THON a year-round effort. I loved feeling like a part of making the magic happen for the kids.
Kayla: Most recently I was a member of the Dancer Relations committee, which is a large committee of about 700 student volunteers. We are broken down into groups of 30-35, and our job THON weekend is to be there for the dancers! We have scheduled 'shifts' that we spend on the floor with out assigned dancers, to help with whatever they need, from stretching, getting meals, even bringing them gifts from friends and family.
What is the most rewarding component of your THON experience?
Kate: I love being able to see the tangible difference my committee makes. Whether that’s from an email message that we sent out that raised a large amount of money, having more people fundraising than in past years because of our advocacy, or even just seeing orgs hold successful fundraisers, it’s amazing to know that my committee has a hand in it all.
Nina: The most rewarding part of my involvement with THON has been hearing family stories. All of the events and fun that surround the iconic 46 hours are incredible, but the best part of THON is really knowing that the organization provides constant, unwavering support for kids and families going through some of the most challenging times of their lives.
Could you tell us about your favorite memory from the 46 hour dance event?
Kate: My favorite THON memory will always be witnessing others experience the magic of THON for the first time. It’s so amazing to see their eyes light up and a smile cross their face when they hear the music, see the colors, and witness the love of the THON community.
Kayla: My favorite part of THON weekend is the total reveal. Every year, one of the very last things that we do at THON is reveal the total fundraised amount. The energy in the room is incredible, you can feel the excitement as the total comes up on stage and then there's this amazing couple of seconds where nothing else in the world even matters.
Is there anything you have learned from doing THON that you're going to take with you after graduation?
Kate: I owe all of who I am to THON. It’s shaped me into the person and leader that I am today and I will carry my experience with this organization for the rest of my life.
Nina: THON has given me incredible insight into the power of a community coming together to support one another. I'm pursuing a career in community relations, so I've learned a lot about how different organizations can get involved with philanthropic efforts like THON to make a lasting impact through fundraising and events. I can't wait to use that experience after graduation to continue giving back both personally and professionally
Kayla: A big piece of my time volunteering with THON has been about meeting and forming connections with new people. In just a few short weeks we have gone from complete strangers to family with our committees. I think the collaborative aspect of THON is really inspiring and special to this organization. After these past few years of fostering connections and teamwork with my committees, I think this is something that I will carry with me well after graduation.
Thanks for all the difference you are all making!
Remember from October 20, 2020 through November 30, 2020, KYLE CAVAN will donate 10% of net sales from the Penn State Collection to THON each month (in addition to the 12% Royalty paid to the university each month). From October 20, 2020 through October 19, 2021, KYLE CAVAN will donate 22% of net sales from the THON Collection to THON each month. 12% will be paid directly to the THON Licensing Committee and 10% will be allocated to the organization that the customer chooses at checkout.