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10 Questions With THON 2016 Executive Director Katie Mailey

Less than a month after THON 2015’s 46-hour weekend came to a close, the organization announced that rising fifth-year senior Katie Mailey would be taking on the role of Executive Director for THON 2016. Onward State talked to Katie about her path to the position, as well as her plans for the upcoming year.

Onward State: How did you first get involved with THON, and what lead you to where you are today?
Katie Mailey: When I was a freshman, I got involved through the business fraternity that I was pledging (Alpha Kappa Psi). I went canning, fundraised, interacted with our family, and experienced my first THON weekend with them. During my sophomore year, I wanted to be a part of the internal side of THON, so I joined a Finance committee. My desire to give to THON grew from there; as a junior, I was an Alternative Fundraising Captain, and became Finance Director this past year.

OS: Why did you want to become the Executive Director of THON 2016?
KM: Throughout my time at Penn State, I continue to get so much out of this organization and feel connected to the cause. My involvement on the committee, captain, and executive committee levels allowed me to fully see how much I loved every single moment that I was able to give back to THON. It’s important to me to take THON into the future and help THON continue to grow. Additionally, being able to work with an inspiring and passionate group of people is motivating in itself. It was so rewarding to see the executive committee’s visions come to life throughout the year and understand how all of the different committees interacted to better THON as a whole.

OS: In the past, you participated in THON as an org member, a committee member, a captain, a dancer, and an executive committee member. How do you think your past experiences with the organization will shape your decisions and leadership style as Executive Director?
KM: I think that, because I have such a varied background in THON, I am able to see all aspects of what it means to be an organization member during THON weekend. Org members are one of the largest groups of volunteers we have for THON, so it’s important to take their opinions into account. In my role as Executive Director, I will make sure that [org members] are being thought of in all decisions. I think that being able to bring that perspective will be very helpful.

OS: What is one thing that would most people be surprised to hear is a part of your job?
KM: As the Executive Director for THON, I have a seat on the Four Diamonds Advisory Board. All board members meet in Hershey four times each year to discuss current and future goals for the Four Diamonds Fund. The board consists of several members from the hospital, a few members from Four Diamonds. and community members. I have an opportunity to experience what the advisory board is like and bring THON’s perspective to that. It’s interesting to be a part of the long-term discussions and decisions that Four Diamonds is making throughout the year.

OS: What improvements and changes do you plan to focus on for THON 2016?
KM: One of my overarching goals for THON 2016 is to focus on the sustainability of all aspects of THON. I’m planning to look at all of the different committees and processes that we use, and make sure that every little thing we do throughout the year is being done in a sustainable way. We want to ensure that, in five, 10, or 20 years, the executive committee is sitting in a good position where they will be able to take THON to where they want to take it. I think the best thing I can do as Executive Director is set THON up well for the future so that we can continually say that THON is able to grow to new heights.

OS: What role do you think THON plays in the Penn State community, and how do you plan to enhance or change that?
KM: For me, it really served as a home within Penn State, where I was able to find my niche. To the larger Penn State community, it provides a positive opportunity for students to be involved with something larger than themselves. That that is something I want to be able to continue: to provide an opportunity for people to be as involved as possible and as involved as they want to be.

OS: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be THON’s next Executive Director?
KM: It was an out-of-body experience. I was in disbelief for a bit, and it took a couple of days for it to really sink in that I was gifted with another year to contribute to the cause.

OS: What is your favorite THON memory so far?
KM: This past year, we were waiting next to the stage to do a line dance, and the entertainment director told us to come behind the DJ booth. I remember standing back there, looking around at everything that was going on, and truly feeling the passion and the energy in the BJC. I realized that every single person in that building contributed something to THON, through volunteering, monetary donations, or emotional or financial support to the families. At that moment, it really hit me that while every person gives to THON in his or her own unique way, each individual truly makes an impact on the organization.

OS: Why do you THON?
KM: Fortunately, I was not directly impacted by pediatric cancer growing up. As a result, I connected to this cause when I came to Penn State. Gaining a better understanding of pediatric cancer helped me see that I really wanted to fight for the kids. I fight so that they have an opportunity to grow up, go to college, graduate college, and have kids of their own. I want to see them live a full life, with as many opportunities as I’ve been granted to continue to help in this fight. I’ll never be able to be the doctor that finds the cure for cancer, and I’ll never be able to be the nurse at the hospital. If THON is the way that I can give back to the fight against pediatric cancer, then I want to do everything that I can to help.

OS: Finally, if you would be any type of dinosaur, which would you be and why?
KM: I would be a pterodactyl because I would love to be able to fly.

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About the Author

Alex Calderaro

Alex Calderaro is a junior majoring in Supply Chain Management from Central Jersey. As a first generation Penn Stater, she has found a home here in several places, including her sorority, and, of course, Onward State. You can contact her at [email protected] or follow her on twitter @alexcalderaro.

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