Meet the THON 2014 Directors: Megan Renaut, Hospitality Director
With THON season in full swing, we conducted a series of interviews with each member of the THON 2014 Executive Committee in order to better connect the Penn State community with the leaders of the largest student run philanthropy in the world. This week features Hospitality Director Megan Renaut.
Megan Renaut, Hospitality Director
Fun Fact: I love to read and reread books. I’ve probably read the same books over and over again more often than I’ve read new books.
Onward State: Why did you apply to be a part of the Executive Committee for THON 2014?
Megan Renaut: THON has always meant a lot to me. It’s been a big part of my life since I was a kid and I always knew that I wanted to do as much as I could, anything possible if I were given the opportunity to give back to the Four Diamonds families and give back to the organization that has made such an impact on my life. I really care a lot about the Four Diamonds families and want to be able to give them as much emotional and financial support as we can.
Also, the emotional and financial support that came from THON had a really big impact on me when I was a kid and I definitely wanted to be able to give back. I wanted to make THON better, to make it bigger and better and include more volunteers and I really wanted to be able to have the opportunity to do as much as I can for THON and for the Four Diamonds Fund. Anything that I could really contribute was going to be amazing, so I figured why not apply to be on the Executive Committee and see how much I can do?
OS: Summarize some of the responsibilities of the Hospitality Committee and then the role you play as Director within those responsibilities.
MR: The main role of the Hospitality Committee is to provide food and beverage for all pre-THON events and THON weekend. That includes big events like the 5K and Family Carnival and also small events, like canning drop off days or a faculty staff luncheon that we run through the university.
There are a lot of different facets to that, which is really fun for my captains, because they get to work with donors in the community who donate in kind donations. It’s really cool because those people in the State College community are very passionate about THON and that’s one of the awesome things that we get to do as a Hospitality Committee. We also help during events to set up and serve the food for volunteers, Four Diamonds families, and anyone who is attending the events.
What’s really important about the Hospitality Committee is that because we’re able to get all of this food donated for all of these events, we can save THON that money. We save THON so much money by providing these free donations instead of THON having to use any money that it raises to buy the food for the Four Diamonds families and for its volunteers.
It’s especially important that we provide food for the Four Diamonds families because they don’t have to worry when they come to State College for a weekend how to afford to pay for their kids to eat out all weekend, or where they’re going to find food.
In terms of my role as Director, over the summer I was in a very different role than I’m in now that I have captains. Over the summer it’s mostly maintaining relationships with all of Hospitality’s donors. Calling them, checking up on them, seeing how they’re doing. It’s important to make personal connections because they’re really the fuel of Hospitality and we couldn’t do what we do without them.
OS: What are your overall goals for this year? What are you looking to change and improve to make the Hospitality Committee the best it can be?
MR: A lot of my visions for Hospitality are sort of just starting to begin because so many projects that I could’ve gotten done over the summer I really can’t start without the help of my captains. They’re really important to the role of Hospitality.
My big focus this year is event preparedness; the 5K is coming up and it’s easy to sort of not be prepared because they were just picked. It’s a really quick transition but one of my main focuses is making sure that every captain and committee member is not confused in any way about their role in an event, whether it’s the 5K or Family Carnival or THON weekend. I want to make sure that everyone is getting the education that they need regarding different equipment, different responsibilities, and different donors, that way anyone can jump into a position and sort of take off with it.
It helps my captains to be able to support each other if they know what each other is doing. So that’s one of my big focuses. Another one is focusing on the way we serve food and improving that. We always use gloves and we always use hand sanitizer and that kind of thing, but it’s really important to me that everyone is educated on how to best serve food.
How long we can keep it in the captain lounge, how long it should be sitting somewhere before we have to move it to somewhere else, just really serving safe. I’m looking into different training programs for captains and committee members to sort of understand the importance of keeping all the food that we serve safe and clean and keeping ourselves clean so that we can serve it safely.
OS: What moment or moments are you most looking forward to during this upcoming THON year? Be as specific or vague as you’d like.
MR: Our captains go on a retreat, so I guess this is more vague, but I’m looking forward to that time we’ll have together. It’s a really important bonding experience and I’ve already in the last few weeks seen my captains grow closer and closer together and start becoming friends and that’s really amazing and it’s just magical. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to sort of get everyone in one place for a weekend and just see the intense bonding that goes on and all of the things that everyone will learn about each other. I think it’s really a special thing to be able to see 20 complete strangers from diverse backgrounds, both in life and in THON, come together and start working together as a well oiled machine. So I’m really excited for that.
I’m definitely excited for THON weekend. I think my favorite moments that I’m looking forward to the most will include going into the BJC for the first time with the Executive Committee. We arrive very early and from what I understand of the process it’s a very unique view of THON because obviously when you walk in it’s the BJC and twelve hours later it’s THON and it’s kind of incredible. Also at the end of THON being able to share the excitement that is THON weekend with my captains – and of course by then we’ll be awesome friends and become a supportive family – just being able to share that experience with them and know how much work they’ve put into THON weekend will be really special.
OS: Why do you THON?
MR: There are so many reasons. The main reason that I THON is so that we will find a cure for pediatric cancer because like I said, I got involved with THON when I was young because my cousins and my sisters danced for THON so I had always been around THON. Then I had an experience where one of my closest friends had pediatric cancer when we were in around fourth grade.
That was a really traumatic time for her and her family and me and my family and it just sort of, for the first time, really opened my eyes to why I had been going to THON in the years before and sort of what that experience really is like for a Four Diamonds family. Obviously I wasn’t in a Four Diamonds family, but I could see the stress that it took on her entire family and how it changed their lives and their routines.
As much as I’m thankful that she won her battle and that she is cancer free today and that she was provided with emotional and financial support, it still has changed her forever and it changed their family forever and it has obviously changed me. For me it was in a positive way, because now I’m here and I’m doing this and I can do whatever I can to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.
But obviously for them they went through such a traumatic period in their lives and I hope that we’re getting closer to a time when people don’t have to experience that, because it’s great when we can treat someone and they’re free of cancer and their life is not in danger anymore, but it impacts them for their entire life. I think the reason I THON is so that I can have a small part in the reason why we won’t have to THON one day, and that no one will have to experience that trauma and that fear again.
OS: Name an event or two that you think will make this year’s line dance?
MR: Miley Cyrus. Miley Cyrus will definitely be in the line dance. Probably something about hockey tickets and how it had to close down and it was all crazy.
OS: If you could be any dinosaur, which would you be and why?
MR: Stegosaurus. It’s my favorite dinosaur, so I guess I would be that. They’re just really huge and they’re really gentle, but people don’t mess with them because they have those big spikes on their backs.