Since its conception in 1973, THON has established itself as the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. Raising more than $10 million last year for kids battling cancer and their families, THON strives to make a significant and lasting impact on the families it serves and the Penn State community.
The organization has been run by students at Penn State University since its formation in 1973, when groups of fraternity and sorority members wanted to tie a philanthropic element to their Greek organizations. After several years of raising money through small scale dance marathons and other fundraising events, THON eventually partnered with Four Diamonds, an organization whose mission is to “conquer childhood cancer by assisting children and their families through superior care, comprehensive support and innovative research,” according to the Four Diamonds website.
While THON is a one-of-a-kind organization in and of itself, the students who head up THON’s fundraising and other efforts supporting kids and families battling childhood cancer are where THON shines the most. Each member of the Executive Committee has unique passions and motivations behind their work with THON.
Campus Causes is currently entering its third year partnering with THON to help the organization maximize their fundraising efforts by integrating our shop-to-raise platform. To celebrate three years of continued partnership, our team at Campus Causes sat down for a chat with four of this year’s executive committee members to learn more about them and get excited about what’s ahead for THON this year.
Meet (some of) the THON Team
Regina Duesler, this year’s Executive Director and a fifth-year student at Penn State, has served THON as a finance committee member, finance captain, finance director, and, this year, executive director. She started her journey with THON when a friend encouraged her to join as a freshman and continues to be involved as much as she can. Above all, she plans to be an emotional support person for others, whether it be members of the team or the families the organization supports.
In her final year at Penn State, Duesler says she is most excited to develop the organization’s outreach strategy and expand fundraising methods to be more collaborative and even more creative than they already are.
Dan Mele, this year’s Public Relations Director and rising senior, joined THON in 2017 as a member of the hospitality committee before getting more involved with media relations and social media in the following years. He knew he wanted to be involved with an organization supporting a meaningful cause before he started at Penn State, so he was drawn to THON from the beginning.
As the PR Director, Mele is looking forward to increasing THON’s social media presence and taking full advantage of various platforms to share stories, events, and spread the word about THON’s mission.
Becca Aloi, a rising senior and this year’s Fundraising Safety Director, didn’t really know about THON when she started at Penn State her freshman year, but has stuck with it because of the people—both her teammates leading the organization and the families THON supports.
Aloi is most excited to use her role as Fundraising Safety Director to support organization members in their fundraising efforts as much as possible and help ensure the safety of volunteers at the same time. She wants to make sure volunteers feel empowered to try new strategies and are supported in things they try.
Olivia Galow, THON’s Communications Director and a rising senior at Penn State, started her THON journey as an organization member and moved into the communications committee shortly after, which led her to her current position as the leader of communications for the organization this year.
As the Communications Director, Galow is excited to continue working alongside inspiring individuals and improve THON’s inclusivity and diversity, which will ultimately encourage as many people as possible to get involved in the organization in some capacity.
THON: A Look Ahead
After raising an impressive $10,621,683.76 at THON 2019, this year’s executive committee is hoping to go above and beyond this year by increasing efforts to engage Penn State alumni and others not directly a part of the THON community.
The overarching goal—and consequently the theme of this year’s executive committee—is to “inspire every voice” and empower anyone to get involved with the cause.
Others on the THON team echoed this goal and have each set goals for themselves in their positions to collectively advance and evolve THON’s mission “for many years to come.” In addition to supporting organization members throughout the year, the team also wants to increase alumni engagement, empower others to think outside the box in their fundraising efforts, and grow the two “pillars” of THON: raising funds and supporting families emotionally.
THON’s biggest event by far is their annual THON Weekend, a 46-hour event where supporters dance and perform in support of the families they support. THON 2020 is set to take place from Feb. 21-23 on the Penn State campus in the Bryce Jordan Center.
In addition to THON Weekend, THON hosts a variety of fundraising events to grow the community and share the stories of families they support, like the annual THON 5K run, the 100 Days ‘Til THON Celebration, the THON Showcase, and the Closer to a Cure Celebration in March. A full list of THON events can be found here.
How to Get Involved
Interested in getting involved with THON? Here are some things you can do, according to this year’s THON executive committee…
Shop on Campus Causes: Since we launched in 2017, THON has been one of our most valued partners. In addition to allowing students and alumni directly involved with THON to shop for their own organizations, families, friends, and anyone with a desire to help the cause can shop hundreds of online retailers with a percentage of purchase going to the cause.
Donate Directly: THON accepts direct donations through our online giving platform, where people can get monetarily involved in any capacity they’d like. While THON is about much more than raising funds, this is the easiest way for external folks to get involved and help the cause. You can also check out THON Nation, in order to create your own page and encourage your family and friends to get involved in THON’s mission.
Attend the Events: All THON events on the Penn State campus are open to the public, including the THON 5K, the 100 Days ‘Til THON Celebration, and even THON Weekend. If you can’t make it to Penn State to participate, check out some of the virtual events for people all over the country.
Photos courtesy of Penn State THON.