As a part of Onward State’s commitment to help establish more immediate access to THON to the Penn State community, of which THON is such a huge part, I have conducted a series of interviews with the each of the 2011-2012 overalls. These are the students who have taken the initiative to lead this organization, so may we all take a moment to learn from their words, and help implement their ideas into our continued fight against pediatric cancer.
Onward State: Summarize some of the responsibilities of the Communications Committee, and then the role you play as the Overall within those responsibilities.
Charlotte Kohl: Communications is very similar to Public Relations, except it has a different audience. Our goal is to make sure that everyone in the Penn State community—faculty, staff, students, alumni—anyone that falls under the Penn State umbrella on all campuses, feels engaged and can help THON and in the fight against pediatric cancer. We really work to educate everyone about THON, as well as empower them with the information they need to have a successful fundraising year.
As the Overall, I work closely with my captains, making sure they are all informed. I also work with the other overalls and their captains, especially with the members of the Fundraising Focus Group, which includes myself, Anuj (Donor & Alumni Relations Overall), Mairead (Rules & Regulations Overall), Vicki (Finance Overall), as well as Elaine (THON Overall). Our captains all work closely because we are all getting that fundraising information to organizations. We are always looking for more feedback from organizations, so this year we are conducting roundtable discussions, where we invite organizations from different categories, like general organizations, and spend about an hour seeing what has worked for them and what hasn’t.
OS: What made you want to take on the position of Overall of the Communications Committee?
CK: It sounds cliché, but so many people leave THON weekend wishing they had done more. I loved my position last year, but I knew I could do more, and I knew I could help more. I am the only junior on the committee, so I’m the young one. As a freshman, I didn’t miss the boat, so I luckily got involved right away. I was a Rules & Regulations Committee Member that year, and sophomore year I applied for a Communications Captain because I thought that was where I could best lend my skills. After being a captain, I have seen so many different aspects of THON. It really helps you appreciate how every position is great for a certain reason. There are 15,000 volunteers, but everyone does such a tremendous job. I really wanted to take all that I had learned over these two years and make a bigger difference.
OS: What are you looking to change/do differently this year with the Communications Committee to help improve it?
CK: The one thing that pops in my head is education. It’s our 40th year, it’s a great year to really spear-head a huge education initiative. I’m working on this with my captains, and helpfully they can send it down to the 108 committee members, and then as liaisons, bring it to the organizations as well. The fact that we have 15,000 volunteers is what makes us so strong, but if people aren’t educated on what THON, The Four Diamonds Fund, and pediatric cancer really is, it can hurt our efforts. We have an education training handbook, which our captains have to go over every week, as well as weekly cancer facts. Hopefully it will help everyone have a more well-rounded understanding of it all.
OS: What moment or moments are you most looking forward to during this upcoming THON year? Be as specific or vague as you want.
CK: I loved last year’s Family Carnival. So many families come, and I’m excited for my captains to see it. It will be the first time they are really interacting with The Four Diamonds Fund families, and it’s just such a fun day. I’m excited for my captain’s committee member interviews. It’s awesome to see everything start to take shape, and it’s when the THON family’s really start to grow closer.
There are so many things I look forward to, but as an Overall, I’m already half-way through my time, so I’m just trying to take every day and not waste it.
OS: Why do you THON?
CK: Everyone knows cancer is an evil disease. It has a negative connotation no matter what way you spin it. Coming into THON freshman year, it felt like, “OK, we’re fighting pediatric cancer,” and it’s not that it didn’t have meaning, but until we actually got to THON weekend, we didn’t see the full impact it has on these families. There are so many nights where you’re so busy that you might not have time for that 2-hour meeting, or whatever. You’re staying up late, you’re stressed, you may pull all-nighters and wonder whether you can really handle what you have gotten yourself into, but you can always lean on your fellow captains, committee members, organization members. Then going to THON Weekend, and hearing one family say thank you, it’s like you never pulled an all-nighter, those emails were never stressful. Just hearing one family say that they are here because of us, it really puts everything into perspective.
OS: Name an event or two that you think will make this year’s line dance.
CK: Oh, there’s been so much already. I remember thinking right after THON was over, they’ve got it so easy, between Osama, the Royal Wedding, and all that’s been going on. THON specific, I’m hoping for something about the new hospital, as it’s coming along really well. Since it’s our 40th anniversary, I’m hoping there’s an acknowledgment of that.
OS: Finally, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be, and why?
CK: Probably triceratops. They seem so nice and level-headed, and they were herbivores.
Speaking in literal terms, the Triceratops may have one of the least level heads of all dinosaurs.
If you enjoyed this interview, make sure to check out the previous installments of the Overall Series: Supply Logistics, Special Events, Public Relations, & Technology as well as my 10 questions with THON Overall Elaine Tanella. Also, catch up on the rest of the recent THON content: FT5K 2011, THON 2012 Theme, Overall Life Lessons, 2011 Summary of Fundraising Activities, Canning Map Weekend #1, Canning “Do”s & “Don’t”s, New to THON.