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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2019 R&R Fundraising Safety Director Jess Tyrrell

Name: Jess Tyrrell
Major: Biobehavioral Health

Past THON Experience:

THON 2016: Rules and Regulations Committee Member
THON 2017: Rules and Regulations Committee Member
THON 2018: Rules and Regulations Volunteer Safety: Online Giving Captain

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

I don’t have wisdom teeth!

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

Over the past three years, I have been so incredibly blessed to be a part of an organization that has made such an impact on so many children and families. In a family’s darkest times, THON has given them hope. It has been a safe haven for kids to just be kids. Throughout my time on Rules and Regulations, I have recognized the need to provide a safe environment for families, THON Volunteers and all other supporters. This environment is not only necessary at our events, but also in our fundraising methods. I wanted to be a Director to use my knowledge and experience to better the Rules and Regulations Committee and THON as a whole. In my short time at Penn State, THON has changed my life. I can only hope to give back to this organization for the incredible experiences it has provided me.  I am so humbled to have been given this position and hope that together, we can look toward a future with more birthdays, more smiles and more laughs.

What are your responsibilities as the Fundraising Director?

As the Fundraising Safety Director, my main roles are to oversee student fundraising activities, maintain a safe fundraising environment for all volunteers, and lead over 1,000 committee members toward creating a safe and fun environment THON Weekend, along with the Event Safety Committee. Alongside 19 Fundraising Safety Captains, the Fundraising Safety Committee is responsible for facilitating DonorDrive, Canvassing, Alternative Fundraisers, Donation Boxes, and many other student fundraising activities. The Fundraising Safety Captains deserve all the credit for the day-to-day operations of this Committee. In my role, my main focus is to create connections with professional contacts and Organizations, as well as provide the captains with the tools they need to be successful, to ensure that THON’s fundraising model is sustainable for years to come.

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

In years past, Fundraising Safety (then Volunteer Safety) had played more of an administrative role in approving and denying fundraisers, without having a lot of contact with the organizations submitting them. This year, 5 Fundraising Liaison Captains were added to the structure of the Committee. This change has ensured that organizations are able to not only understand how to fundraise successfully, but also learn how to improve from year to year in their fundraising practices. By adding these positions, we have also seen a lot more collaboration between Fundraising Safety, Communications and DAR Development. This has been really awesome, as all three of these committees work with organizations on a day-to-day basis.

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

Something that is so cool about the Fundraising Safety Committee is that we have the opportunity to play a part in almost all student fundraising efforts for THON. Being from the Philadelphia area, I have seen hundreds of Donation Boxes and Alternative Fundraisers take place within my own community. Knowing that Fundraising Safety played a role in making those fundraisers possible really shows the impact that this committee has on the THON Community. Fundraising Safety’s role in student fundraising allows us to continue spreading awareness for the cause and also aids in providing financial support to children and families impacted by childhood cancer.  

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

One of my biggest goals coming into this position was to act as a resource to the hundreds of organizations that fundraise on behalf of THON. This goal has remained at the forefront of my focus throughout the year. By renaming the committee from Volunteer Safety to Fundraising Safety and implementing Fundraising Liaisons, I hoped to rebrand the committee as a partner in fundraising, rather than an enforcer of the rules. Another one of my biggest goals was to be more strategic in our fundraising through data collection and segmenting potential supporters. In the past, it has been difficult to collect fundraising data. However, as we are becoming more well versed in online fundraising practices, we are able to more effectively track who supports THON.  

Why do you THON?

There is something to be said for those of us who are still able to find traces of magic in even the darkest of times; for those who never lose faith in our ability to achieve the impossible. When I came to Penn State, I thought magic was only a product of fairytales; that logic outweighed miracles. I believed this; until I found THON, or rather until THON found me. There is a reason why THON cannot be described to those who have never experienced it. The answer is simple: THON is magic. The feeling of 16,500 student volunteers united so that one day we can celebrate a world without childhood cancer is one that cannot be captured in any story, post or video. The sound of a child ringing the bell at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital to signify their last day of treatment is one that will forever be the main reason why I THON.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

After experiencing three THON Weekends, it is so hard for me to choose a favorite memory. However, one that sticks out to me is from THON 2018. Last year, I had the most incredible committee. Their passion and dedication to the cause made it impossible for me to give them less than 100% every week. During the Final Four hours, they were together in the stands after their last shift. I had a free minute so I went to stand with them. When I saw the sense of community that existed between them and realized how much they had accomplished that weekend and throughout the entire year, I was so incredibly proud. This moment is one that I will never forget. It is the moment that I realized that it is the people we meet and the relationships that we build that have made THON possible for almost 50 years.

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

A Massospondylus because they aren’t much taller than humans and I wouldn’t want to be too tall because then I might scare people away!

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About the Author

Cassady Potts

Cassady is a sophomore English and journalism major and Onward State's Assistant News 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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