THON Overall Series: Tommy Scharnitz, Hospitality

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 Hospitality Committee, and then the role you play as the Overall within those responsibilities.

Tommy Scharnitz: All of the Hospitality Captains are responsible for procuring all food and beverage donations throughout the year. We do this by reaching out to local donors and regional donors. That’s about as far as we reach out because it’s difficult with deliveries and pick-ups otherwise.

Committee members work at all THON events, and all the promotions that THON has. Throughout the year, they work the water stations at the FT5K, which helps keep the runners hydrated, and at the Family Carnival they help set-up and are in charge of decorating during our arts and crafts week for the Family Carnival and THON Weekend. Then on THON Weekend, their main responsibilities are to serve meals, set-up the Family Lounge and Captain Lounge, keep all the Hospitality areas neat and organized, and filling all the waters and beverages on the floor.

My position was a little busier during the summer because I had to work with every donor that my captains now are. Throughout the year, it’s more just helping my captains with their roles. They can always turn to me, I know all the donors, so if they ever need help working with one of them, or just had a really stressful week, I can step in. It’s just keeping good relations with our donors and planning the events, the meal times, and the donations we actually service.

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

TS: I’ve always just wanted to get more involved in THON in any way that I could. I started off as a Morale Committee Member, and I knew since the first week of being a committee member that THON was something I wanted to become more involved with every year. So last year I applied for a captain and got it. It was just the greatest experience I’ve ever had. As a captain, you get to see so much more of the family interaction, and how THON works. It’s not that you’re more a part of it, but you take on increased responsibility, and it’s more like THON is every day.

I just wanted to become an Overall Chair because I love THON, and I wanted to make more of an impact. I wanted to increase Hospitality’s role, make it better, and make THON, as a whole, more successful. Especially in the emotional support for the kids because that is our main goal.

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

TS: Hospitality is cool in a way because it’s a very stable committee. There’s not too many crazy things we can change, but there are always things we can improve. My main thing is meals on THON Weekend. Just the way meals are served, the kind of food we serve. It’s tough sometimes because all the food we serve is donated, but I want to get healthier foods for the captains, dancers, and families.

I also want to increase the role of family interactions with my captains and committee members. That’s the one thing I would have liked to have had more of not only last year, but two years ago. I know that since I have been able to meet with Four Diamonds Kids and Four Diamonds Families, that’s really the best part about being part of THON. That’s why everyone joins; they want to meet the families, learn about them, and help them in any way possible. I guess that’s my main thing: getting committee members more involved, more excited about all the events. They are the leaders of future THONs, and in order for THON to continue to be so successful, we have to start with the committee members and the captains. I just want everyone to be as passionate about it as I am, and just have as great of an experience as I’ve had.

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

TS: I’ll go vague and specific. It’s probably very cliché, but THON Weekend is not THON. THON is year-long. We have been on the Overall Committee since April 1st. Literally every day, there is something to look forward to. Just even contacting a donor that you have a good relationship with, or seeing your captain’s committee member interviews. I’m really excited for that because that was my favorite part of being a captain, picking my committee. I guess that’s my vague insert. Even when it gets stressful, you have to go back to why we are here. Just those three letters, FTK, it reminds you that all the good we are doing for the kids makes every day important.

Some bigger events I’m looking forward to: the FT5K, obviously. It’s going to be my first official event, I guess. The Family Carnival is always exciting, and we get to reveal our logo. Even before that, going in front of the Homecoming Parade, we get to reveal our theme. I think when everyone knows the theme and logo, that’s when everyone says, “Alright, this is our year.” It’s not just the Overall Committee’s theme and logo, it is THON 2012’s theme and logo. And Obviously, THON Weekend; I’m literally looking forward to every moment of it. When the dancers stand up, the night shifts when no one’s there, and the final four hours. To see everyone that is involved, and especially for me, to see all of Hospitality, that’s going to be cool. And of course, raising that number. In a way, it will be bittersweet though because it is sort of the end. Then it’s helping whoever takes my position next year. It’s awesome though because it’s the end for 2012, but it’s the beginning for someone else. It just keeps going; there’s never an end for THON.

OS: Why do you THON?

TS: I often feel selfish because I never lost anyone close to me to cancer or any disease. I’ve lost two grandparents, but it’s totally different when you see someone in your family, especially a kid that did nothing to deserve it, die of cancer. I’ve always been heavily involved in philanthropy, and THON’s a way that you are bigger than yourself. Not only in taking a role with 15,000 other students, but in taking on all the Four Diamonds Families. They become your family, and it becomes more real every day. We are all here for the same reason; that some day we won’t have to dance for a cure, but dancing in celebration. Even when cancer is cured, we won’t stop having THON. We are celebrating life. We are celebrating dreams and hopes.

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

TS: I feel like this year, there has been so many things. The thing that sticks out in my mind is the quote, unquote, earthquake that we had.

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

TS: [Before I finish the question] Velociraptor. Going back to the Jurrasic Park movies, because we all know those were completely accurate, velicoraptors hunted in packs, they could take down animals because of their teamwork, and they were so fast. They were so deadly.

For more information on THON 2011-2012, make sure to check out the installments of the Overall Series: Morale, 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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