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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2019 R&R Event Safety Director Natalie Hanson

Name: Natalie Hanson
Major: Immunology and Infectious Disease
Past THON Experience:
THON 2016: R&R Committee Member
THON 2017: R&R Event Safety Security Captain
THON 2018: R&R Head of Pass

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

I was an extra in an episode of House Hunters on HGTV.

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

Throughout my time at Penn State, my involvement in THON has completely changed my life in ways that I could never have imagined. I would not be the person that I am today without the incredible people that I have met during my time in this organization. THON is an organization devoted to helping others, and I am extremely grateful to be a part of something that changes so many lives. The families that I have been able to meet and the passion that the THON community has for our mission motivates me every day to continue to find ways for this organization to grow. I wanted to become a Director so that I can instill the same passion for THON that I have in others, and give back to the organization that has given me so much.

What are your responsibilities as the Event Safety Director?

My duties as the Event Safety Director are to ensure security of THON Weekend and all pre-THON events, as well as the safety of every supporter, volunteer or Four Diamonds Family in attendance. I work with University Police, EMS, and emergency management to make sure all THON-sponsored events are protected and prepared for any emergency event that could occur. I work closely with the Bryce Jordan Center to coordinate all of the building security and floor access for THON Weekend and to make sure that all building policies are being followed. Along with Event Safety Captains, we facilitate and manage a variety of events that take place THON Weekend, as well as working with all Rules & Regulations volunteers to ensure a positive environment for THON supporters who attend THON Weekend.

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

Being involved on R&R for the past three years, I think that I have developed a good understanding of both the strengths and weaknesses of the Event Safety Committee. Something that I have worked hard to implement are a number of changes that make the THON Weekend experience more accommodating to spectators. From the way that our volunteers interact with organizations to different building entry procedures, we really wanted to focus on making changes that would benefit the spectators while still keeping everyone safe. I’ve worked closely with Dancer Relations to focus on how we can improve the Dancer’s experience throughout the weekend and make sure that they have the support when they need it the most. I’ve also worked closely with Family Relations to make THON Weekend more accessible to families and ensure that they are always a priority.

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

My favorite part about the Event Safety Committee is how encompassing it is. We get to play a role in planning almost every single event that THON holds, not just during THON Weekend but throughout the entire THON season. It is a committee that involves a lot of hands on work, and manages a lot of the logistics that go into making every event happen! Being on Rules & Regulations allows us to be a part of everyone’s THON Weekend experience, and our goal is to make sure that everyone who attends THON Weekend or any THON event have a positive and safe experience.

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

This year I really wanted to challenge a lot of the old ways of doing things, so that we could focus more on making positive improvements that would be sustainable for several years. We’ve been focusing on areas of future growth within the Event Safety Committee, including building entry processes, floor access, and the spectator experience. I really wanted to make this committee’s focus not just about the safety of each person, but also about facilitating a positive experience for everyone who attends THON Weekend.

Why do you THON?

When I came to Penn State from Massachusetts, I had never heard of THON or the Four Diamonds, and thought that it would be a great thing to get involved in to meet new people. After spending my first THON Weekend as a Committee Member, I was without words. I had never been a part of something so large, with the ability to instill a passion in tens of thousands of student volunteers and supporters around the world. I have been blessed to have met some of the most courageous kids I will ever meet, and to spend my week surrounded by people that would give this organization everything they have to change these families’ lives is something that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I THON not just for the kids and their families, but for the thousands of volunteers and supporters around the world.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

My favorite THON memory comes from a Special Visitors Trip I took to Hershey my sophomore year. While I was there, I met a young girl who asked me if she could practice french braiding on my hair. I sat on the floor of her Hospital room and helped her design her organization’s THON Weekend shirt with colored pencils that we turned into watercolors and as she was braiding my hair, she said to me that she wished she had hair as pretty as mine. After this trip, I knew that I wanted to donate my hair at THON so that all little girls battling cancer can always feel beautiful, and this past THON I was able to donate 16 inches on stage.

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

My little sister is a self-proclaimed dinosaur expert, and she said I would be a velociraptor because they are always protective of other raptors, and that’s what my job is in THON!

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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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