(THON) Overall Life Lessons

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with each of the THON Overalls. As Onward State’s THON senior content producer, I figured it would be in my best interest to get to know each of them a little bit, as well as introduce them to myself.

I also figured it would be a great idea to use these meetings to ask them each a few questions that I could then share with all of you. THON is one of Penn State’s defining events–arguably our greatest accomplishment each year–so it is imperative that we get to know those who are leading us in the charge FTK.

In my recent committee interview, the captain interviewing me told me it must have been an honor to be able to speak with each Overall, and I would agree. The commitment that accompanies taking on the position of an Overall is something that those who have not held it cannot quite understand, even if we all know it is one hell of a job. Through my interviews, I got a little taste of what it takes, and to say the least, I am amazed. How they balance being an Overall with classes and a social life is nothing short of witchcraft to me (organization is an attribute I was not blessed with).

However, I took away more than a nice arsenal of Onward State articles. In fact, somewhere along the way, I practically forgot the main reason I was meeting with each of them. Some people have a natural ability to inspire and excite others, and this year’s Overalls certainly can. In each interview, a regiment of questions evolved into an energized conversation, veering off on tangents of sudden realizations (mostly on my accord).

THON is a year-long event, and sometimes we forget just how vital our battle is along the way. The passion surges back here and there, but it usually isn’t until THON weekend that we realize the lasting impact we make in the children’s, families’, and each other’s lives. Listening to the Overalls, I have learned a few lessons that I believe will not only help make THON the best it can possibly be, but help bring a little more love into this world that so desperately needs it.

1. Know what it is you are fighting for.
When you the hear the term “cancer,” whether pediatric, or any other form, you know that it is bad. There is no one picketing outside the BJC on THON weekend, screaming at those entering for wanting to rid the world of the beautiful manifestation that is cancer. You will get the shit beaten out of you for that. However, cancer seems to be known as just “bad”. So few of us truly know the science behind cancer, including myself, accepting it as this intangible evil.

Now, I am not saying that you can’t help fight pediatric cancer without knowing what it is, but there is no denying that it would help. If each us knew the basic concepts behind how cancer works, the effects it has on the human body, and the treatments used to fight it, not only would we have a greater idea of where our money is going, but we could relate to the children and families it has wrought such hardships upon. The THON Overalls all mentioned to me that informing students about cancer was a huge initiative for this year. It is common sense to know your opponent inside and out in any sort of battle, so when this information is offered to you by the higher-ups of THON, I urge you to take the time to learn what it is we are fighting against.

2. Inspire those around you, especially those of the younger generations.
Since THON’s inception in 1973, the event has grown and grown into the unbelievable event that we see today. The first year, $2000 was raised, and last year, over $9.56 million was raised. There is no larger student-run philanthropy in the world.

Yes, these numbers are practically unparalleled, but facts grow mundane pretty quickly. It is our human interactions that resonate timelessly. The smile of a Four Diamonds child when immersed in an intense water gun fight, the struggle of a parent to maintain composure during Family Hour, the embrace of a fellow committee member (and more importantly, a friend) when all energy seems to have left us. These are the moments we never forget.

Many of the Overalls mentioned the pivotal role their predecessor had upon them. How they took on the position of Overall because they wanted to give others what they had received from their former leaders. They told me just how absolutely stoked they are to watch their captains grow.
It is the duty of the THON veterans to give every last bit of knowledge and compassion to the newbies, for they are the future of THON. The band We Came As Romans states in their song “To Plant A Seed”:

I have never been so consumed and I have never loved it more.
To be devoted to letting all see what it is to live in the love of others.

Plant the seed of love in all that surround you, and let it consume you.

3. Always seek to give more.
In every single interview each Overall told me that they took on the position because they wanted to give more. They could have settled for a captain’s position again, but instead they chose to continue on to a larger time commitment. Why? Because you get back what you give.

This is the beauty of service. Far too often, we seek for some tangible reward for each of our actions. “If I’m going to do this for you, what will you give me in return?” THON asks for nothing in return, and yet we receive the only thing that can truly satisfy us: happiness. By the helping the life of a Four Diamonds child, our lives are enriched in ways that cannot be put into words.

We all only live once, and we are in this life together, so when you seek to help those who need it the most, you create a world that is best for everyone. Give and give more of yourself, and soon we will have to give no more.

These are just a few of the things I took from my week full of conversations. I hope that you will take these lessons to heart and implement them into your THON experience, as well as the rest of your life. Tomorrow will mark the first of the THON Overall interviews, so please take the time to get to know a little bit about them. Also, make sure to register for the THON FT5K. For The Kids and For The Glory!

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About the Author

Ryan Kristobak

Hailing from Lebanon, PA, I am a senior majoring in print journalism. Things I enjoy include lovesacs, denim, mullets, Fight Milk, Jonny Moseley, and "hang in there" kitten posters. Things that bother me include "fun" sized candy bars (not fun), fish, shoobies, wet door knobs, baby leashes, and Jake Lloyd.

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