THON Overall Series: Kaylee Tully, Family Relations

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

Kaylee Tully: Family Relations upholds the emotional aspect of THON for the Four Diamonds Families. We work with the families to ensure that their experience is the best. We run a lot of the family events that occur THON Weekend: fashion shows, Captains-In training. Prior to that, at all of the pre-THON events, we focus on all the family activities that occur during those times.

We work on Harvest Day. That’s an event that is just for the Overall Committee, the families, and the Family Relations Captains. It’s the first event of the season, and it’s really cool to see everyone; it’s a new year. At the Family Carnival we work with Hospitality and Special Events. There is a family lounge where families get to go eat and relax.

But with all the committees, anything that they plan that has to do with the families, we are basically there to help them ensure that it’s For The Kids.

We also, as Family Relations Captains, work on a lot of the programs, like the Adopt-A-Family Program. What that does is Penn State student organizations can apply to be paired with a Four Diamonds Family. It’s one of the coolest programs that we offer here. You’re able to create a relationship with Four Diamonds Families, be there to support them, and plan fun activities with them. We also offer the Pen Pal Program, and that’s where our THON committees are able to write to a Four Diamonds Child or sibling, get to know them, and send them cool stuff.

Between those two programs we are able to provide both our organizations and our THON committees a chance to interact with Four Diamonds Families.

We all have family contacts, so we are able to individually work with certain families, be there with them through their struggles, and also keep them informed with what is going on in THON. If they have any questions, whether it is “Where do I park at THON?”, or something that might be more personal, they know they can come to us.

For me, specifically, my main job is to work with the Four Diamonds Fund: with the administrative staff, and some of the music therapists, child life specialists, and social workers. We make sure there are Hershey trips every year, so students are able to go for a tour of the Medical Center. I also lead my captains as they work with the Four Diamonds Families.

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

KT: The reason I am here is because I want to make a difference in the lives of not just one family, but in the lives of many families. To me it’s not just I’m going to be here this year to help the families, it’s that when I’m gone, when there are new families, and old families still coming here, that they have the best experience. Knowing that one day we will find a cure, I think, is so powerful, and I just want to make sure that we continue to push for that with our students.

The reason is to really help every family, the ones I know, and the ones I never know. You’ll talk to some kids, and they’ll say, “Well I don’t remember my treatments, but I do remember coming to THON,” and that is what I want to hear from every child.

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

KT: Something that is big, is that we now offer online registration for THON. In the past, families would get a packet to register for THON. In trying to go green, we decided why not offer online registration. That was a huge project for us, and I worked very closely with Tech this summer to make it happen. Families can now receive a mailer, not in the mail, but via email. They can register for THON, the 5K, Harvest Day, and for all the programs, and it takes less than a minute to do all of it.  We want to make their experience really fun, but, at the same time, really simple.

Something we are always trying to push for is how do we get our committee members and our organizations to interact with families? We do that through a lot of things. Through pediatric cancer awareness, allowing them to share their stories about the families they know, and giving them different experiences at events where the families are.

Something I really wanted to see this year when I applied is more pediatric cancer awareness. Everyone says, “I love THON, I want to help the kids and the families,” but do know what these families are going through? Do you know what Leukemia is? Do you know what Lymphoma is?  Do you know what a brain tumor is? These are a lot of things students probably don’t know. They just know that a child has cancer, and they want to help. This is great, but I feel that the more understanding of it we have, the better we can provide support to the families, and at the same time, promote awareness beyond the THON community.

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

KT: I’m really excited for my captains this year. For when they go to Harvest Day and meet families they haven’t met before, and just have fun with the kids.

Definitely Family Hour THON Weekend. It’s very emotional, but, at the same time, I think it really brings the entire THON community together. The whole weekend we are having fun, we are playing, and enjoying ourselves, and it brings you back, and it reminds you why we are here. We are here for these kids, and for these families, and for this fight, so that one day we don’t have to be here.

I’m really excited to meet the new families and help them learn about what THON is.

OS: Why do you THON?

KT: I know I already said it, but you THON so that some day there is a cure. I firmly believe that we will find a cure. Who knows when we will reach it, but the success rates are so high now. The clinical trials we have been able to do because of the money we have provided. I THON so we can have that much more research that leads to all these amazing discoveries, to more innovation. I THON so these families can come back to THON every year to celebrate lives that have been lost, to have fun, for the kids to be kids, for parents to have that peace of mind that they are not alone in this fight.

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

KT: The earthquake! Maybe the NFL lockout? I’m really bad; I barely watch TV. I barely know how to turn on my TV.

You what I would really love? If they put that registration is now online, but they probably won’t. I would love a shout-out, especially for Tech. Those guys are so awesome.

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

KT: I would be a velociraptor. It’s in Step Brothers, and Step Brothers is one of my favorite movies.

For more information on THON 2011-2012, make sure to check out the installments of the Overall Series: Finance, OPPerations, Merchandise, 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: Social Media Pledges Raise Thousands, THON on the TODAY Show, Get Fit for THON Weekend, Color Wars Kick Off, 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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