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THON Alumni Turn Hope into the Hope Gala

Many Penn State students that are deeply involved in THON often wonder what they will do with their lives after crossing the stage and accepting their diplomas. One group of Penn Staters took their knowledge and passion for THON with them after graduation and created a new event that is still FTK.

New York City residents who happen to also be Penn State and THON alumni will host the sixth-annual Hope Gala, a black tie event on on March 1st in New York City. The gala is a fundraising dinner that benefits the Four Diamonds families — the same fund that Penn State students fight tirelessly for.

Six years ago, a group of Penn State and THON alumni came together to organize the first Hope Gala as a way to stay passionate about a cause close to all of their hearts. The group wanted the event to reflect the elegance of its New York City location while still keeping the fun spirit of THON, so they decided on hosting the annual gala that raised $74,000 for THON and The Four Diamonds Fund in the last year alone.

Since its beginning, the Hope Gala has had several of emcees — from popular Penn State personalities Jay Paterno and LaVar Arrington, to former HGTV and Food Network personality Jill Cordes. This year, the gala will continue the tradition of hosing a silent auction and raffle offering off items like tickets to the 2015 Super Bowl, a Modern Family script signed by the cast, a John Cappelletti signed jersey, and VIP tickets to Good Morning America.

Last year's auction winners.
Last year’s auction winners

For four of the first five years (and this coming year), the event has found a home at the Capitale, an upscale venue in the heart of the Lower East Side in NYC known for its swanky events. But even with the decked out venue, what guests tend to look forward to the most are the Four Diamonds families that come to speak each year and remind them why they do what they do.

The Emily Whitehead Family speaking at the 2013 Hope Gala
The Emily Whitehead Family speaking at the 2013 Hope Gala

The event, just like THON, is much more than just one night. The alumni kick off their fundraising early with mini-events like trivia nights, food tours, ugly holiday sweater contests, bowling nights, brunches, and Bingo. Planning a the event itself is no easy task, though. Each year requires a dedicated team to run such a successful event. Hailey Apter, the event’s Communications Co-Chair, takes care of all public relations responsibilities to promote the gala. Before graduating from Penn State, Apter was a THON PR Captain and danced for No Refund Theatre.

“Dancing was both the most exhilarating and exhausting 46 hours of my life,” said Apter. “Because of the money raised by THON and all of its alumni events, there has been so much progress in cancer research and so much support provided to families dealing with a child with cancer.”

Gia Kornet, a co-chairperson for the gala, focuses on connecting with Penn State Alumni to encourage them get involved in the fight against pediatric cancer, even if they weren’t involved with THON during their time at Penn State. After being inspired by witnessing THON 2004, Kornet knew she had to get involved the next year as it would be her last. She created her own organization and danced in THON 2005.

“I’ve made lifelong friends who share the same passion about THON that I do,” said Kornet. “I feel very blessed that I have had the opportunity to be part of such a great cause.”

Just as Penn State’s student volunteers balance their school and volunteer work, these alums balance their full-time careers and running the Hope Gala each year. They use their skills to continue helping a cause and passion that all began at Penn State; talk about impressive.

Tickets are on sale now for this year’s event. Looking to get involved as a volunteer or want to know more about the gala? You can visit the website to get more information.

As they like to say at the Hope Gala — It’s up to you, New York! We THON in 28.

About the Author

Amber Kloper

Amber is a first-generation Penn Stater--class of 2016--studying broadcast journalism and business. She likes THON and traveling and reading and writing and music and words and rambling.

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