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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2019 Alumni Engagement Director Lulu Hamm

Name: Lulu Hamm
Major: Philosophy
Past THON Experience:                                                                                    THON 2016: Dancer Relations Committee Member                                          THON 2017: Alumni Engagement Captain                                                          THON 2018: Dancer Relations Captain

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

My real name is actually Olivia, but I have gone by Lulu my entire life!

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

Throughout my time at Penn State, I have been continually inspired by what THON is able to accomplish, and I have wanted nothing more than to play a part in empowering the THON community while working alongside other passionate volunteers as we strive towards the day that we will discover a cure for childhood cancer. THON taught me the value of service and showed me first-hand the impact that we as Penn State students can have on the lives of those around us. As I prepared to enter my senior year, I felt confident I would be able to take the necessary steps to ensure that the visions of Executive Committee are brought to fruition, while instilling passion, leadership, and enthusiasm within a group of volunteers. Calling on my past experience with Alumni Engagement, I wanted to take the opportunity to serve on the Executive Committee and devote myself to a role that I felt could bring about a great deal of growth for this organization as a whole. This position continuously fills me with an overwhelming sense of pride for the past, present, and future of Penn State. I am tremendously passionate about the innovative, empowering, and impactful strides that can be made through meaningful engagements between THON and our alumni supporters, and being able to help foster the impact alumni can have on THON and our shared fight against childhood cancer inspired me to apply for this position.

What are your responsibilities as the Alumni Engagement Director?

As the Alumni Engagement Director, I work to educate the Penn State alumni community about fundraising opportunities and awareness campaigns, empowering them to further THON’s mission to conquer childhood cancer. My position is responsible for spearheading many of THON’s fundraising initiatives and creating the various solicitation and awareness pieces provided to our alumni in an effort to improve THON’s solicitation techniques and expand our donor base into new demographics. Since April, the Alumni Engagement Committee has been working to create new ways to involve alumni in THON’s yearlong fundraising and awareness efforts. These initiatives are all focused on fostering and maintaining relationships with THON’s new, longstanding, and future alumni as they support students, the University, and the THON community. Further, I am responsible for working closely with the Penn State Alumni Association, the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG), Penn State’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations, and various alumni groups across the country.

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

Many of my goals and visions as the Alumni Engagement Director involve working to innovate our outreach and solicitation efforts to establish a more sustainable fundraising practice for the future of THON, while paying tribute and respect to the traditions of THON’s past, primarily in our interactions and engagements with alumni fundraising on behalf of THON. One of my biggest goals this year is building a more inclusive, all-encompassing community of THON volunteers and supporters. In September we launched THON Nation, a new fundraising platform that enables THON alumni and supporters to create personal fundraising campaigns while simultaneously spreading THON’s mission nationwide. Donor and Alumni Relations have been working hand in hand to establish, cultivate, and promote this new initiative on a large scale. We are currently striving to empower THON Nation members by showing them the ways in which they play an integral role in helping THON fulfill its mission of conquering childhood cancer. 

What makes the Alumni Engagement Committee so cool, fun, and/or important?

I think the Alumni Engagement Committee plays a pivotal role in developing a lasting future for THON as an organization. While our involvement as THON volunteers may be limited to our time as students, our relationships with THON and the Four Diamonds Families we support are lifelong. Alumni have the potential not only to be THON’s most dedicated and generous supporters, but to be ambassadors of our organization, actively spreading THON’s mission across the country and the world. Alumni bring their passion, knowledge, and experiences with THON to their hometowns and into their professional and social networks. I also think the Alumni Engagement Committee is important because it empowers students to interact with donors, University staff, and various stakeholders of THON. There is a great deal of professional development that comes with Alumni Engagement, as these experiences provide a tremendous amount of experience learning how to build meaningful, lasting relationships with various demographics of stakeholders who are passionately invested in the prosperity of Penn State.

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2019?

Two overall goals I hope to reach are focused on educating our current students on how to engage with alumni on behalf of their organizations, as well as smoothing the transition between being a student and an alumnus. This year, the Alumni Engagement Committee has made tremendous strides in building our relationships with student organizations that participate in THON by dedicating a great deal of time and resources towards education and provided them with the tools they need to build and engage with their own alumni networks. As organizations face changes in their internal fundraising models, Alumni Engagement aims to provide new, sustainable practices that can empower organizations as they build and foster their own alumni engagement efforts. In addition, we are working to help students feel knowledgeable about how they can participate in THON as alumni once they transition into becoming recent graduates. It is our goal to ensure that our student volunteers are aware of how our alumni remain involved with THON and recognize that the fight against childhood cancer does not end after graduation.

Why do you THON?

To me, THON is a light that shines out into a world that too often finds itself in the darkness. I wholeheartedly believe in the community that is fostered by THON, and I THON because this indescribable feeling of connection, hope and solidarity; it exists. It lives and breathes far beyond 46 hours. It is exuded in the families, the courageous children, and every volunteer who packs into the BJC THON weekend. It is created through the efforts of 16,500 students that are taking tangible steps towards finding a cure, as we face with great strength, passion, and courage the fight against pediatric cancer. The awareness we foster, the funds we raise, the support we provide to the families of Four Diamonds and the solidarity we create for those fighting across the world – it will make all the difference in the life of a child. It is both a rare and marvelous phenomenon to witness the success of tireless human endeavors. Year after year, the Penn State community dances for every beautiful life lost, for battles won, and most importantly for hope of the day that we will dance in celebration. THON is knowing that despite the battles we will face, we will continue to dance until that day comes. This is why I THON.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

My favorite THON memory was during THON 2017 when I was an AE Captain. One of our responsibilities THON Weekend is to give tours to donors, alumni, University Staff and Four Diamonds families. Our schedule was backed up because of Pep Rally, so I offered to pick up an additional tour after my shift had ended. The tour that I picked up ended up being for a Four Diamonds family who later shared with me that they had lost their child years ago, and this was their first time returning to THON. I will never forget taking them onto the floor and seeing the moment their bodies froze, their eyes gazing upon the thousands of people who filled the BJC. They had experienced the unthinkable pain of losing their child, and yet they were completely captivated by what they saw, by the energy and the colors that existed so vibrantly before them. To witness a family so enthralled by what thousands of students had created for them was truly indescribable. At the end of the tour, the mother of the family removed a bracelet from her wrist and gave it to me. To this day, this bracelet serves as a reminder of the love and hope that THON fosters, something that is beyond words or expression. To me, it is because of families like them that we will never stop dancing, and meeting them has always been my favorite THON memory.

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

My dinosaur knowledge is pretty limited, but I took this quiz and it told me I would be a Brachiosaurus. It seems like a pretty low-key dinosaur, so I guess I’ll go with that.

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About the Author

Cassady Potts

Cassady is a junior English and journalism major and Onward State's Student Life Editor. She is from York, Pennsylvania and loves iced coffee, books, and women's volleyball. You can find her on campus by looking for the girl who always wears stripes. Feel free to send any questions, comments, or memes via email ([email protected]) and follow her @cassady_potts on Twitter.

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