THON Overall Series: Gen Goldsmith, Morale

As a part of Onward State’s commitment to help establish more immediate access to THON to the Penn State community, of which it 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. May we always “Brighten Every Journey.”

Onward State: Summarize some of the responsibilities of the Morale Committee, and then the role you play as the Overall within those responsibilities.

Gen Goldsmith: One of the unique things about Morale is that being one of the larger committees, it gives 700+ students the opportunity to get involved in a way that students can get their feet wet, and learn what THON is, without having to take on a huge responsibility.

I like to say that Morale prides themselves on building relationships because you have to be able to build a relationship within a week, with a person that trusts you for a weekend. So they can turn to you when they need something, and be able to break down in front of you. This is not easy to do with a stranger. We teach them how to do that by becoming so close [as a committee].

Through “Moraling 101,” they learn how to morale dancers; what is appropriate, and what is not appropriate. A lot of the people in the BJC don’t understand that, and Moralers are pretty much the only ones who do. You can’t say the time. You can’t even say, “I just ate breakfast,” because the dancers are going to know it is around breakfast time. It’s all about getting them in the mindset of THON Weekend, teaching them how to interact with dancers, and to help others interact with dancers.

The captains have to know better than anyone how to work with the dancers. They need to know when a dancer needs to go to the EMS, and all the little tricks for dancers. A big thing for them is inspiring the THON community. To spread their passion and explain to others why they should be involved. They work all year to plan the larger events for dancers on THON Weekend: Mail Call, The Walk, and some new events this year.

I act as a liason between my captains to the rest of the overalls because a lot of my captains work with other overalls. I also make sure my captains are doing what they need to do with their committees, completing their jobs and talking to me. There are almost no returning Morale Captains this year, so I always try to make sure that they understand everything I tell them because it is hard for me to remember what is like to be in that position.

OS: What made you want to take on the position of Overall of the Morale Committee?

GG: Well, for me, when I applied, it was to be an Overall, period. I really did not care what I got. At first, I wanted Supply Logistics. I am obsessed with SL. But after I sat down, and kept thinking about it, I realized there was a lot with Morale that I wanted to change, and I thought there was a lot I could bring to the position. There were a lot of things that I loved last year, and I think Griff did a great job getting things started, and I didn’t want that to take ten steps backwards.

I chose to become a member of the Overall Committee because THON has shaped who I am. It’s the reason I have the ability to walk into a room and have the confidence to know that what I am saying is accurate. I am comfortable doing things that even two years back I couldn’t. I wanted to make a difference in something that has made a difference in me.

OS: What are you looking to change/do differently this year with the Morale Committee to help improve it?

GG: One thing that I came into the position with, wrote it on my application, and stuck with it is I want all of our volunteers to leave the year having learned something. I don’t want them to feel that they did this just to do it. They leave as better leaders. They leave stronger. I think a lot of times in organizations that when people are handed positions it makes them a leader. No, you are given a position and you earn it. It is what you do with it that makes you a leader. I want to bring more leadership and professional development into THON.

I want to unify the captain and committee experience. Over the summer I learned how different all of the committees were. I assumed that every committee had a weekly meeting in the past, and that’s not always how it was. So that’s something we changed; every committee will have a weekly meeting. It’s the little things you don’t always think of that can really affect someone’s experience. That is definitely what we are trying to accomplish with things like RYB, which is OPP, R&R, and Morale. We wanted to unify our committee’s experiences, take the positive things from each one, and share them.

And, as I’m sure others have mentioned, general education and awareness. It kills me when I have committee members that say they spend hours in meetings, but they can’t even tell you a simple thing about cancer, or the basic structure of THON. And that’s not their fault. That’s our fault for not getting the information to them. So a huge thing I have been working with Kirsten [Public Relations Overall] and some of the overalls on is a general education, training manual that covers all this basic stuff. How can you represent an organization if you don’t know what it is? So if I can bring that knowledge to 700 people, then that’s 700 more people on campus that can spread that awareness.

OS: What moment or moments are you most looking forward to during this upcoming THON year? Be as specific or vague as you want.

GG: For me, one that has happened already was picking captains. When I picked them, I picked the people who really wanted it. So at our first meeting, just watching all of them, I told everyone to look around and absorb where they are, because it is an honor to be here. I told them that they were in these seats for a reason, and just seeing their faces when I said that was so exciting.

I am looking forward to revealing the theme at Homecoming. And I guess I’m just excited about the unknown. I look back over these past months, where I was in April, and where I am now. It’s overwhelming, and there’s so much I would have never guessed that would have happened. And if this happened before we gained these volunteers, I can’t imagine what I am going to learn in these next months.

OS: Why do you THON?

GG: Back in THON 2009, I want to say, there was a dad who made a speech, and he said, “This is my son. If it wasn’t for you, he wouldn’t be standing here.” It was at that moment I realized what it is that we are doing that makes a difference. That’s what started it, and the more I have learned, the more I have realized how true that is. Going to the Hershey Medical Center, and seeing the money we’ve raised, and the support we have given them, make a difference in their lives. For instance, we [the Overall Committee] went to visit a child over the summer because his family couldn’t always be there, and spent the entire day with him. Seeing the smile on his face, and knowing that us being there made his day a little bit easier, those little things that I can do to make their journey a little better is why I THON.

OS: Name an event or two that you think will make this year’s Line Dance.

GG: Haha, I wrote the Line Dance, didn’t I tell you? It’s done! No, but maybe Friday, Friday. The earthquake, possibly. Don’t ask me anything about sports, I don’t know anything about them. I couldn’t even tell you what season we are in. The 40th anniversary will most definitely be in there. I’m sure Barry Bram will continue to be in the Line Dance. He has such an impact on us.

OS: Finally, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be, and why?

GG: I would definitely be one from The Land Before Time, because they are absolutely adorable, and who doesn’t love them? And then you could be someone’s pet, so that would work out.

OS: Any of them specifically?

GG: Well usually I would say I want to be…what’s the one…Peachy?

OS: Petrie? [who is a pteranodon]

GG: That’s who I usually say when someone asks what dinosaur I would want to fight, because instead of fighting her, I could just make her my pet. Can she fly? I forget.

OS: She can kind of fly.

GG: I would probably be her so I could fly. And no one would want to hurt you because you are the most adorable thing in the world!

Pet dinosaurs? Right on.

For more information on THON 2011-2012, make sure to check out the installments of the Overall Series: Technology, Donor & Alumni Relations, Rules & Regulations, Public Relations, CommunicationsSupply Logistics, & Special Events, as well as my 10 questions with THON Overall Elaine Tanella. Also, catch up on the rest of the recent THON content: THON Announces Canning Workshops, Mr. & Mrs. THON, Johnson & Johnson Dedicated to THON, THON 2012 Theme, FT5K 2011THON 2012 ThemeOverall Life Lessons2011 Summary of Fundraising ActivitiesCanning Map Weekend #1Canning “Do”s & “Don’t”sNew to THON, Canning Weekend #2 Tips, Go Green FTK.

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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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