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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2019 Entertainment Director Mary Papandreas

Name: Mary Papandreas
Major: Industrial Engineering

Past THON Experience:                                                                                      THON 2016 Dancer Relations Committee Member                                          THON 2017 Dancer Relations Committee Member                                          THON 2018 Entertainment Captain

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

This summer, I was not in the same city for more than 4 days at a time!

What made you want to apply for the Entertainment Director position for THON 2019?

Whenever I meet someone, the first thing I notice about them is their smile. It is a universal way of showing the world that you are happy, and I have come to find value in my own life whenever I am able to give someone that happiness. One of the most magical things that THON is able to do is put on a 46-hour dance marathon, where the only thing kids fighting childhood cancer need to worry about is their cheeks hurting from smiling too much. I wanted to be a director so that I could help give the world more smiles like that.

One of my favorite quotes is by Winston Churchill when he said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” When I look back at my life at Penn State, I want to be able to say I gave everything I had to a cause that matters. I joined THON to help others, but in reality THON has helped me more than I can ever hope to match. It has allowed me to be a part of something so much bigger than myself and kept me grounded when life got tough. Through THON I have met some of the most inspiring people and families in my college career, and now I owe it to them to pay it forward in the same way that they did for me. I wanted to become a director to dedicate my senior year to empowering the next generation of THON volunteers and creating impactful moments that would put smiles on everyone in the THON community.

What are your responsibilities as the Entertainment Director?

My main responsibility as the Entertainment Director is leading the Entertainment Committee to embrace their roles and take them to new heights. The Entertainment Committee has a unique opportunity to impact over 50 pre-THON events and THON Weekend through live performances and audio/visual entertainment. We work to provide the highest level of production value to motivate thousands of THON volunteers and supporters throughout the year. Entertainment Captains and Committee Members perform a variety of tasks including DJing events, creating the THON Weekend timeline, contracting bands and various entertainment acts, executing large scale crowd engagements, setting up and tearing down the stage, moving lighting and sound equipment, controlling in house cameras and visual displays, planning Pep Rally, and generally bringing the hype to the stage, floor, and crowd THON Weekend. My role is to ensure we are all working together to combine these entertainment aspects and foster new ideas, creating a more effective and exciting entertainment experience For the Kids!

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

This year I want to create an environment that fosters impactful moments for everyone in the BJC during THON Weekend. In the spirit of the theme for THON 2019, I want to empower all families, dancers, volunteers, and stakeholders to shape their moments THON Weekend into unforgettable experiences. The Entertainment Committee has been hard at work collaborating with various committees to make this possible! There will be new talent acts, expanded crowd initiatives, and revamps to iconic THON events to name a few ways we are planning to create new, exciting moments for the thousands of people in the BJC and watching the livestream this year.

What makes Entertainment so cool, fun, and/or important?

I like to describe Entertainment as the heartbeat of THON. We control the energy at events based on the music we play, acts we contract, and show flows we design. We can elevate the mood to get people on their feet dancing, and we can slow the vibe down to focus on precious moments spent with families. Our committee works with each of the other 15 committees to bring their dreams and visions to life at all pre-THON events and THON Weekend. What is also unique about Entertainment is that our work is both creative and logistic at the same time. We brainstorm fun ways to engage all THON volunteers, families, and stakeholders, then work to plan and execute these ideas. People arrive at THON events and expect a certain level of excitement – the Entertainment Committee is a key player in creating the hype at all THON events!

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

When THON Weekend is over, my goal is that every person who entered the BJC, or tuned in on the livestream, will have countless smiles to remember long after the weekend ends. For all of the families that attend, I want them to take them on a 46 hour adventure that allows kids to be kids again. If it is a student’s first THON, I want this year to be the reason they fall in love with this organization. If it is a senior’s last THON as a student, I want them to walk out of the BJC knowing this was the best way to end our chapter as students and inspire them to stay involved as alumni. My hope is that the 85 members of the Entertainment Committee work together to execute the 46 hour live entertainment production that is THON Weekend in in a way that inspires the 16,500+ people who will pack the BJC this February!

Why do you THON?

I THON for more smiles and to create memories for the THON community that will last a lifetime. Being on the Entertainment Committee has provided me with the unique opportunity to impact over 50 pre-THON events and THON Weekend, shaping moments for families by fostering a positive, high energy environment that engages people in a meaningful way. When you attend a THON event, there is a certain atmosphere that you have come to know and love. There is upbeat music, fun performances, interactive games, emotional family stories, Line Dances, children laughing, and students remembering what it feels like to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It is electric! The Entertainment Committee works behind the scenes to create that energy. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a kid turn into a rockstar on stage THON Weekend, jam out to a song you played, or jump for joy when they see their favorite Star Wars character walking around on the floor. It is in those moments that the only pain they are worried about is how badly their cheeks hurt from smiling so much. That is why I THON — for the smiles that transcend time and last long after THON Weekend ends.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

My favorite THON memory happened last year. I was working a shift on stage using the video switcher, which controls all visual displays in the BJC. I queued up the Celebration of Life video and pressed play during the Final Four hours of THON, and then stood arm in arm with my co-captains at the back of the stage. From our perspective, we got to watch the entire BJC sway in unison and react to this very moving video. I was moved to tears by this beautiful sight, and it reminded me that we all experience these moments where time seems to stand still and we are reminded why we THON.

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

Ankylosaurus because it has a cool tail that can hit things and I like boxing. It’d be a good boxing dinosaur I think.

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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 (ca[email protected]) and follow her @cassady_potts on Twitter.

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