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The Trials And Tribulations Of A New Org’s First THON

A member of any THON organization will tell you: It’s a year-long cycle to prepare for those 46 hours in February.

A lot of these orgs have been around for years, though. What does it take to be a brand new special interest organization working toward dancing for the first time?

Eclipse, founded in 2016, is preparing for its very first THON. With 12 founding members, all who met in their freshman dorm Packer Hall, the process of starting from scratch to get to becoming an official org participating in THON was a marathon.

Vice-President and Onward State photographer Carly Weiss originally joined a different org during her freshman year, but didn’t feel very close to the rest of the members in such a large group. That set off her original goal with Eclipse — to make it more close-knit.

“Our desire from the start was to keep it personal, since other orgs on campus are a lot bigger and don’t have as much of a personal connection,” Weiss said. “We wanted to differentiate ourselves from other clubs and orgs and make it more of an intimate connection so that everyone would know every member by name.”

Once the 12 felt ready to pursue the endeavor, Eclipse got in touch with student affairs and the new special interest org was registered with THON.

As simple as it may seem to become official, the preparations (especially as a new group) are daunting.

Without a real meeting place or a full understanding of the process it was about to partake in, Eclipse struggled in the beginning stages. It looked to orgs like Tetra as mentors to get through rough patches in its early preparations.

Eclipse started its fundraising effort once members got back to school in the fall. Bake sales, THONvelopes, donation boxes, and its very first canning trip got things going for the org. It earned $2,600 from the trip.

The goal was to bring in new members to the group of 12 as the semester continued. Social media was key in growing the Eclipse family to 40.

“We made a Facebook page, a Twitter account, an Instagram account, and even our own website through Squarespace,” Weiss said. “We invited all of our Facebook friends that go to Penn State to follow our pages and then we continued to publicize our meetings and recruitment techniques. If it wasn’t for social media, we wouldn’t have recruited nearly as many people as we did.”

As a first-year org, Eclipse did not have any allocated spots for dancers and had to go through the lottery. Weiss and fellow co-founder Emily Mira had to sweat it out, but they were both selected as part of the 708 dancers announced Thursday. Eclipse expects to have allocated spots in the future, but nothing is guaranteed.

With just the finishing touches now ahead in its preparation for THON, Eclipse is relying on its mentors once again. Considering the effort it put in during the past year, the org looks forward to the next challenge with excitement.

“All of the work and dedication we have put into launching this new organization is going to be extremely satisfying knowing that we raised as much money as we have in order to change people’s lives,” Weiss said. “We started with 12 kids stuffed into a supplemental dorm, and we currently have an amazing group of 40 driven and committed members.”

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.

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