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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2019 Family Relations Director Lizzy DeMarshall

Name: Lizzy DeMarshall
Major: Civil Engineering

Past THON Experience:
THON 2016: Dancer Relations Committee
THON 2017: Dancer Relations Committee, Club Cross Country Family Relations Chair
THON 2018: Family Relations Captain

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

I attended Space Camp in Alabama when I was 11.

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

It all comes down to gratitude, and for me, being involved in THON has shown me time and time again that there is no better way to give meaning to gratitude than by expressing it. I wanted to become a Director to be able to pour my time, effort, and entire heart into expressing the immeasurable gratitude I have for every Four Diamonds Family, volunteer, and experience in which THON has touched me over the past three years. Through those experiences, and especially through the little moments, I’ve come to witness that through the most tragic battles that life can throw at us, THON is a light. I felt inspired by the strength of every Four Diamonds families to want to spread that light to the entire THON community and especially to every family.

What are your responsibilities as the Family Relations Director?

The duties of the Family Relations Director are to oversee the involvement and interactions of all Four Diamonds Families within the THON Community. Alongside the Family Relations Committee, the Family Relations Director is responsible for communicating with families on a daily basis to ensure they are provided the utmost emotional support necessary during their current, or former battle with childhood cancer. At each event, the Family Relations Director works to foster interaction between THON Volunteers and families by incorporating new and innovative activities that help to build long-lasting relationships with members of the community. The relationship the Family Relations Director maintains with several Four Diamonds staff members at Hershey Medical Center is crucial to the success of the position.

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

This year, I want to continually ensure that every decision is made in the families’ best interest. This past September, one of Family Relations’ annual events, Harvest Day, was moved from its usual location of State College to Hershey, PA. This new location was much more accommodating to families and catered to their schedules and travel convenience.

What makes Family Relations so cool, fun, and/or important?

The Family Relations Committee is unique and important in that we have the privilege of sharing the wonderful, strong families with the rest of the THON Community. The committee is made up of 23 amazing, selfless individuals who pour their hearts into every conversation, interaction, and showcase of support for each Four Diamonds Family. I feel blessed and inspired to work alongside them everyday, for something much bigger than ourselves.

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

My overarching goal for the Family Relations Committee to reach for THON 2019 is that the families stay at the heart of all that we do, so that ultimately, THON is a fun, comfortable safe haven for veteran families, an inclusive, memorable place of solace for bereaved families, and a welcoming light for new families. My goals are to improve communication to families, to engage family participation throughout the year, and to spread awareness to the entire THON community about what it means that the families are at the forefront of our mission, through increased awareness and education about who Four Diamonds Families are.

Why do you THON?

I THON for the fighters, survivors, and Angels that have touched my heart. I THON because these children need and deserve a cure. My greatest vision for THON and its mission in general that fuels my personal fight is that one day we won’t need THON as it is now. My vision is that one day, THON will be what we are working so hard towards: a dance marathon of celebration. I hope that one day, in the near future, Penn State student volunteers will get the incredible opportunity to donate their year-long efforts to a THON in which a cure for cancer has been established. That they get the opportunity to dance alongside families and children who have fought their battle and can know that no other kid will have to go through that too.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

I believe in the indescribable beauty that small moments can hold, and THON provides so many of them. While it is impossible to pick just one, here is one that stands out to me.

On Saturday of THON Weekend 2018, I stood at the top of the stage stairs to collect the notecard of each eager performer in the Kids’ Talent Show. Around halfway through, a quiet, six-year old girl with long curly hair, wearing a colorful, flowing dress, held the hand of her mother as she walked up the stairs and handed me her notecard. l gave her a hug and a word of encouragement, as she flashed the warmest smile that you could just see shine through her eyes. Once she was standing in the front of the microphone, McKenna Speed, surrounded by her five organization members behind her and her mother, kneeling right at her side with a comforting hand on her back, looked out at the crowd  that filled the BJC with their bright lights and energy. She froze up, looked at the ground, and remained silent when the music started playing. Being on stage, I watched from McKenna’s perspective that, as her mother stroked her face and whispered something in her ear, the silence was broken by an eruptive cheer of support from the crowd. This made her mother stop and motion to McKenna to look out to this cheering crowd, a group of people who believed in her and who held an unshakable hope in her ability to succeed. I was overcome with awe as I watched McKenna find her strength in this display of support for her. I watched her confidently belt out her song, and knew that the beautiful notes that she hit were coming from the purest part of her heart. I watched her mother wipe away a tear from her own face as she beamed at her daughter, who a minute earlier did not have that strength. I realized right then and there in that moment, that the support of the crowd to empower McKenna to carry out her performance encapsulated all that THON is: support, love, and hope.

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

I would be a Tyrannosaurus so that I could get a group of friends together and start a Tyranno-chorus.

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About the Author

Cassady Potts

Cassady is a sophomore English and journalism major from York, Pennsylvania. She is a staff writer for Onward State and loves iced coffee, books, and women's volleyball. You can find her on campus by looking for the girl who only 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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