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THON Director Thursday: Meet Merchandise Director Jess Frezza

Name: Jess Frezza

Major: Public Relations

Past THON Experience:
THON 2015: Communications Committee Member
THON 2016: Supply Logistics Captain
THON 2017: Merchandise Captain

Name an interesting, weird, or quirky fact about yourself:

This summer I rode in a self-driving Uber! It was a little strange.

What made you want to apply for the Merchandise Director position for THON 2018?

Before I enrolled at Penn State, I knew I wanted to get involved with THON. I didn’t know how much THON would change my life until I experienced it through my communications committee and organization my freshman year. Since then, I have always been eager to give myself wholly to this organization that acts as a beacon of hope for so many families going through the worst of times. After THON 2017 ended, I knew that after two years of being a captain and a volunteer on three different committees, I wanted to give myself wholly to an organization that has impacted every aspect of my life and I felt as if being a director allowed me to do so. I also wanted to have the opportunity to work for all of the incredibly hard-working student volunteers and stakeholders that make this incredible event come together. Since being selected, I am continuously amazed at the hard work that all 16,500 student volunteers, numerous stakeholders, and the inspiring families put in every day.

What are your responsibilities as the Merchandise Director?

As the Merchandise Director, I am able to oversee the THON retail store in the HUB and the online store. I am lucky enough to be able to lead 19 incredible people in spreading THON’s mission beyond the State College and throughout the world through product development, store operations, special event sales, and more. Merchandise handles everything from the new products shown in the THON store, distribution of various THON-wide shirts, managing storage areas, online store orders, and protecting the name of THON through licensing regulation.

What do you want to implement in your position this year that’s unique and differs from years past?

One of the really cool parts to Merchandise is that there are so many different aspects to it that are new every year. Two of the biggest things merchandise is focusing on this year is backend operations in the store and reaching supporters outside of State College. A new position this year is data analysis and forecasting, which is in charge of tracking all sales data in the store and at mobile sales to better forecast future orders. While it does not sound the most exciting, it has been a huge help in making the store run as a professional retail outlet and aids in financial sustainability. In addition, by diversifying our products and stepping outside of the box with products and designs, we hope to reach a wider audience to spread THON’s mission worldwide.

What makes the Merchandise committee so cool, fun, and/or important?

Merchandise is really cool and important because it gives THON’s families, volunteers, supporters, and stakeholders something tangible to show their support and spread THON’s mission by. Someone once told me, “wearing THON merchandise is like a team wearing a uniform,” and that really suck with me. With the THON store in the HUB and the THONline store, Merchandise is able to spread THON’s mission year-round to students and facility in State College and supporters worldwide.

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2018?

I hope to continue to spread THON’s mission beyond the borders of State College to around the world through the sale of quality products. Just as my predecessors have left merchandise 2018 in a great position, I hope to set up the future of merchandise for success and continued growth. Through the sale of our products and support for all levels of merchandise throughout the THON community, I hope the student volunteers feel united and connected in our mission to conquer childhood cancer together.

Why do you THON?

This is such a hard question and every year it changes and grows. I THON so no family has to hear the words, “your child has cancer.” Cancer is so disruptive not just to the child whose childhood it robs but also to the entire family. It leaves parents stressed over the health of their child and the financial implication. It leaves siblings feeling alone and scared. I THON so one day, cancer will be a term of the past. Until then, I THON so the THON community can continue to be the support system for the families we care so much about and they can focus solely on the care of their children. I THON also to unite the fight against childhood cancer and to become an outlet for student volunteers to find their place at Penn State.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

My sophomore year I had the opportunity to work athlete hour during THON weekend. Basically, I helped walk families over to the IM building and watched as the kids ran around and played with the athletes. Not only was it really cool to see Penn State’s athletes taking time out of their crazy schedule to hang out with these families but I had the opportunity to meet a Four Diamonds mother. It was her first THON and she was still marveling at the event. I learned a lot about what her families had gone through and how their first THON had gone. I got to fill her in a little but about what the final four was like. She went on to talk about how much her son loved the football team and how it meant the absolute world for her and her kids to have them take time out of their days to hang out with her kids. Her strength as a mother is still something that amazes me today and just the fact that members of our football team and THON community were able to make her kids happy and therefore her happy, is something I’ll never forget.

Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be and why?

I would have to be the two-headed dinosaur, the Choristodera. My roommate and best friend since freshman year is Nikita, the Supply Logistics Director and our nickname is the two-headed monster since we’re best friends and spend so much time together inside and outside of THON.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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