10 Questions With THON 2017 Executive Director Austin Sommerer
It seems like THON 2016 just ended, but for some, THON 2017 preparation is already in full swing.
Onward State: How did you first get involved with THON, and what lead you to where you are today?
Austin Sommerer: Before coming here as a freshman, friends from high school told me about how great THON was and how it was an organization that I would really enjoy getting involved with. I applied to a Public Relations committee and was fortunate to see that aspect of THON early on, one that explicitly helps to spread THON’s mission, which I really enjoyed. As a sophomore I was an Entertainment DJ Captain, followed by being the Entertainment Director this past year for THON 2016. After seeing what an impact this organization’s volunteers have in the lives of these families battling cancer, I knew I wanted to continue to be involved as a partner in the fight.
OS: Why did you want to become the Executive Director of THON 2017?
AS: THON has the unique ability to change lives. As a freshman, I recognized this quality the organization has, and I knew I wanted to do as much as I can to better this organization during my time at Penn State. After an incredible year on the Executive Committee, I am so excited to be able to do more for THON.
OS: Last year, you were the Entertainment Director for THON. What was that like, and how do you think that experience has prepared you for the role of Executive Director?
AS: As Entertainment Director, I learned each and every detail of how Entertainment operated. I loved having the opportunity to contribute to the atmosphere at THON during both THON Weekend and the many events leading up to THON Weekend, and now I am very excited to do that in a different manner. Being on the EC has allowed me to learn about the different roles that each Committee plays in THON, and I am so excited to help a new EC transition into these positions.
OS: What is one thing that most people would be surprised to hear is a part of your job?
AS: Most people aren’t aware that the Executive Director sits on the Four Diamonds Advisory Board, giving THON the ability to learn more about our sole beneficiary. Having this privilege really allows for THON to have the knowledge to make decisions that will help THON and the Four Diamonds grow in the future.
OS: What improvements and changes do you plan to focus on for THON 2017?
AS: This year I will continue to focus on sustainability while also identifying areas that THON can really grow, both in gaining awareness and raising funds. At all levels of the organization, I want to focus on improving communication with stakeholders, ensuring that they’re empowered as THON volunteers. As always, I will continue to find ways we can make a greater impact in the lives of families battling this terrible disease and make sure we are supporting them through each of our daily activities.
OS: What role do you think THON plays in the Penn State community, and how do you plan to enhance or change that?
AS: THON offers an incredible opportunity for members of the Penn State community to get involved on campus. More than that, it gives them the opportunity to give back to the world around them and fight for something that is so much bigger then themselves. I plan to be a resource for the community and always allow them to ask questions, share their ideas, and look for more ways to get involved.
OS: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be THON’s next Executive Director?
AS: To be very honest, I didn’t know how to feel and couldn’t form complete sentences. I was totally shocked. I was so excited and it didn’t really sink in until I called my parents and let them know. While it still hasn’t completely sunk in yet, I am beyond excited and honored to to be the person to lead this organization into the coming year.
OS: What is your favorite THON memory so far?
AS: I have a lot of favorite THON memories, but one that always stands out to me is the logo reveal during this year’s Family Carnival. This was a moment where the Executive Committee got to stand together and display something that really symbolized the amount of work the community was putting in this year, and it was incredible to see the excited reactions. My family was also at Family Carnival, which made it an especially special day, and it was just an all-around great moment for everyone involved.
OS: Why do you THON?
AS: I THON for the day we beat childhood cancer. Each day, I spend so much time thinking about the ways that this organization can grow and continue to be a leader in the fight, and I know that the work we do today will eventually allow this terrible disease to be beaten. I THON for the families who battle this terrible disease day in and day out, and I THON to help them through this difficult time in their lives.
OS: What are you most excited about for the THON 2017 season?
AS: I am so excited to welcome the new Executive Committee onto the team and start this year with them. I am excited to push them and expand our ability to connect with more stakeholders and work to continue to improve this organization day after day.
OS: Finally, if you could be any type of dinosaur, which would you be and why?
AS: I really think it would be awesome having the ability to fly, so I am going to have to go with a pterodactyl.