THON Overall Series: Jackie Swerdon, Merchandise

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

Jackie Swerdon: Merchandise is responsible for things like the 100 Days ’til THON shirts. While we are not in charge of 100 Days, we are in charge of the shirts, which is a big deal because every year they are different. It unifies the community, seeing everyone wearing the same shirt.

We also are in charge of the committee on shift shirts. Every committee has a different color, which I field, which they wear on THON Weekend when they are on shift. It unifies us as a whole, but also makes us stand out in what we each are doing. If someone has a question about R&R, they can go up to someone in a red shirt. If they have questions about dancers, they can go up to a Moraler in a yellow shirt. If they have a question about the THON store, they can come up to us in the pink shirts.

Other than that, we are in charge of approving all of the designs that all the Orgs make. Each Org makes their own Weekend shirt, and those have to be approved before it is sent to one of the licensed vendors. We make new gear every year. We get rid of some things; kind of clean up the THON store, and make it fit with the trends of the season. It’s usually not a lot of items because we don’t have that ability as student-run organization quite yet. We run the sales in the HUB, and the THON store online. We fill all those orders and send them out.

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

JS: Well when you apply for Overall, you apply for all in general, although you have your preferences. I was on OPP and Morale, so I’ve had those experiences, but for some reason, I thought that Merchandise is where I needed to be. I think because I’m in the business school, and a supply chain major, my mindset has always been business oriented. I’m business savvy, and I know what things I should be getting, and the things that I shouldn’t. I sat down with last year’s overall, Caroline, and talked with her about it because I hadn’t been in Merchandise, which really opened my eyes to a lot of things. I’m a big supporter of efficiency and effectiveness, so that’s my big push. That’s why I wanted to be in charge of Merchandise, and I guess Elaine thought so too.

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

JS: I want to involve the Commonwealth Campuses more. We get questions every year about how they can make t-shirts, and unfortunately our licensed vendors are in this area. This is such an unopened opportunity for us, so I am going to make big strides with my captains who will be working with Commonwealths to find vendors for each location. I want everyone to feel as involved as they should feel because everyone is a part of THON, no matter where you are. We are one Penn State, so it is only fair for them to be able to reach out to their community with a vendor.

Other than that, I am really cracking down on licensing and branding. THON is easily susceptible to people being able to use it to their advantage, and we need to protect it. That’s my main job; I am the protector, along with PR. I have to make sure people don’t print certain things, like the THON shutter shade print. That’s only licensed by myself, and myself alone. The term “THON” is a brand as well. It used to be the Penn State Dance Marathon, but now it’s THON. Protecting those images, and making sure we are careful what we place on them – this is a kind-friendly environment, and that’s how everything should be seen.

And once again, efficiency and effectiveness. The more THON grows every year, and the more awareness is raised, the more merchandise is stressed because people want to buy gear for the things they love. It’s cool that we get to wear what we love every day. It brands a community, and that’s what I want to do. I want to unite the community, and be able to give everyone that wants merchandise, merchandise. But, because we are student-run, we have to come up with the most effective systems to get merchandise out there. We could be working on merchandise all day, every day, because it is a business within THON, if you think about it, but we are also students who have to study, and take tests, and go to class. That’s what we have to work on: getting things done in the best possible system.

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

JS: I’m honestly excited for every moment, of every day. I learn something every day, and I am privileged; it’s an honor to know what I know. Every day I stop and think, “Wow! They allowed me to do this.”

Selfishly, I am a little excited for the logo drop because I do get to pick the color of the shirt, however we as an Overall Committee pick the logo together. It’s a big moment for me, and for Merchandise because we do sometimes get lost in the business, order filling, customer service, sales, numbers…so it’s nice to remember that this is exciting, and we get to do this. It brings the whole theme of the year together, and we pride ourselves on the tone that we want to set for the year, and the logo just brings it out.

OS: Why do you THON?

JS: There a million and a half reasons why I THON. First and foremost, it’s the kids. I had a childhood that I played outside every single day. Everything, I ran around outside with neighbors and played games, and these kids have to stay inside and get treatments so that they are healthy. And that’s just not fair that I got to have such a great childhood, and they have to fight for their lives.

I also THON because cancer, as a whole, can tear down a family. I have seen how cancer can affect people. My grandpa was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and then developed a second cancer last summer. I saw him battle it, and I saw what it did to our family. What we do is keep our entire family strong, and that is something I completely support. It’s easy to let little things get to you, but what we do is take this process, and we walk through and through it, hand in hand. And it’s nice having someone reach out that is strong, to give them strength. It’s for the kids, but it is also for the families. It’s for everyone that is affected by cancer.

That’s why I THON. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s helping someone that needs help. If I’m sitting here, and not helping someone that I can definitely put my efforts towards helping, then what am I doing?

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

JS: Earthquake. Definitely the earthquake. I’m trying to think what’s happened over the last few months…Harry Potter? I don’t know. It was the end. Harry potter kind of gets in it every year. I know we put it in last year; I was a Morale Captain. I’m not really good with this. I was the least creative of everyone. Probably the shuffle for the dance stuff. You know, the *sings* “Everyday I’m shufflin’,” thing. That’s probably going to be in some break dance or something because they have one every year.

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

JS: I don’t know types or anything, but I would either be the dinosaur from Toy Story because he is just so happy, or I’d be the baby dinosaur from the show Dinosaurs. He gets everything he wants, and is just the cutest thing.


For more information on THON 2011-2012, make sure to check out the installments of the Overall Series: Hospitality, 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: How-To Dancer Mail, 2012 Dancer List, 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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