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THON Director Thursday: Meet OPP Director Brendan Hanna

Name: Brendan Hanna
Major: biorenewable systems & energy, business, and finance
Past THON Experience:
THON 2017 OPPerations Committee Member
THON 2018 OPPerations Captain – Set Up/Tear Down

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

I can turn both of my thumbs backwards.

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

I applied to be the Director of the OPPerations Committee because I wanted to serve the organization that has given me so much and be an agent of the change that I wish to see. I first joined THON after transferring from the University of South Carolina during my freshman year and was fortunate enough to be selected to the OPPerations Committee for THON 2017. Soon after cleaning my first mat and hauling my first trash bag, I knew that the Big Blue Family is where I would always belong. Before I became a member of the THON community, I never had a family or friends so close, personally knew the leaders and heroes that inspire me, or felt a sense of passion and hope that has shaped the person that I am today. As a captain for THON 2018, I saw even more of the limitless devotion and strength that THON Volunteers put into creating magic For The Kids each THON Weekend and beyond. My experiences with THON have shown me that there is nothing that I would rather devote myself to. As the director of the OPPerations Committee for THON 2019, my hope is to devote myself to creating the magic that THON has shown me year after year.

What are your responsibilities as the OPPerations Director?

As the director of the OPPerations Committee, I am responsible for overseeing the safe and efficient set up, tear down, and operation of the THON 5K, Family Carnival, and THON Weekend. This entails the planning and execution of these events through a strong, collaborative relationship with Bryce Jordan Center and Penn State OPP staff. Throughout the year, I will work with the 20 OPPerations Captains to successfully develop and run these events as they pursue the duties and projects that come with each of their unique positions. In addition to their captain positions, these 21 captains will prepare each of the 777 OPPerations Committee Members for their role in setting up, running, and tearing down the best weekend of the year. In recent years, the OPPerations Director has had the opportunity to progress THON’s Sustainability Mission and Zero Waste Initiative. Through a collective effort across the entire THON community and the Penn State Sustainability Institute, the THON 2018 OPPerations Committee was able to report Zero Waste Status at the THON 5K and Family Carnival with expectations of Zero Waste at THON Weekend 2019.

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

This year, I along with the 20 OPPerations have taken a critical look at the obstacles the OPPerations Committee faces as well as the opportunities we have to expand. From here, we have developed Captain and Committee Member positions dedicated to overcoming these obstacles with incredible success. The positions developed for sustainability, inter-Committee fundraising, and Committee Member engagement are still in their infancy but stand to grow into sources of positive changes for OPPerations 2020 and beyond.

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

The more experience I’ve had with the OPPerations Committee, the more I’ve grown to love it. OPP has a powerful culture of inclusivity and passion that radiates in everything we do. It’s no surprise that picking up trash and filling mop buckets aren’t the most glamorous duties, but the members of the OPPerations Committee get the job done with a pride and positivity that can seem out of place. Throughout the Big Blue Family, there are bonds formed over laying mats at 5:00 AM or scraping the gum off of a seat well after the total reveal that will last well beyond 46 hours. We’re here to take care of the tough work so our families, our dancers, and our Community never have to.

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

Through years of excellent leadership and transitioning, the OPPerations Committee has been able to get so many of its responsibilities down to a science. From mat cleaning to meeting agendas, OPP has templates and guides for each year’s Committee.

THON is constantly changing and shifting with every moment. Each year brings new spirit and challenges unseen and unpredicted that our Community adapts and conquers. My primary goal for the THON 2019 OPPerations Committee is to become as dynamic an organization as THON itself. The long history of OPP has given it a strong culture of tradition and structure but not much in the way of flexibility and adaptation. OPP should advance and grow with THON each year so we’ve developed positions, initiatives, policies, and events to tackle OPP 2019’s challenges.

Why do you THON?

I THON to create more moments. More moments of light and love, moments that drive our fight and inspire our supporters. THON provides endless opportunity for the moments of strength that bond our community and my dream is to create more of these moments for every person I impact. No matter how much time remains, whether that be 46 hours or 4 years, there is always time for a moment that sparks hope.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

My favorite THON memory is from the third phase of THON Weekend 2018 Tear Down. The third phase of THON Weekend Tear Down is the final task before THON Weekend comes to a close until next year. As soon as the year’s total goes up and the dancers exit the BJC, OPPerations Captains and Committee Members get to work returning the BJC to perfect condition. OPPerations Captains and Committee Members roll mats, run trash, spray seats, sweep stands and mop floors all over the BJC late into Sunday night. After a physically and emotionally draining weekend, tear down can be an exhausting time. However, right around 11:00 PM, an assembly line of a hundred or so OPPerations Committee Members, Captains, and Directors from a handful of committees formed to move supplies into a truck. Completely unplanned, no one could quite say why the assembly line was created. The energy that it sparked was incredible. Even after hours of tiring work, every person in the assembly line found the strength to cheer each time a roll of toilet paper was stacked into the trailer. Between rolls of toilet paper, captains ran Slides of Strength on the truckway floor and our THON Advisor chanted “We want the trash” while ‘Africa’ by Toto echoed through the Event Level of the BJC. The cheering, singing, and supply loading continued into the night until each trash bag and soap bottle made its way onto the truck and the assembly line had completed its mission. This is my favorite THON memory because it is one of the unplanned miracles that comes from THON. In all of the exact timelines created and meticulous preparations made for tear down, an assembly line was never mentioned. Singing and chanting hours after the dancers sat down was never expected, yet all of these people decided to come together and turn loading a truck into a celebration. Every person in the BJC by then had every reason to be exhausted but that Third Phase assembly line reminded me that exhaustion would never keep the spirit of the Big Blue Family down.

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

My favorite dinosaur is a velociraptor, but I don’t think I could handle that kind of life. Just a lot of running around, chasing meals, being a menace. I’ve never had to chase after my food before so that seems like a big transition that I might not have the energy for.  I figure life as a titanosaur would be my solid shot at leading a peaceful dinosaur existence. I’d be too big for anything to bother me and wouldn’t have to chase after my meals since plants don’t run. I’d probably be able to wander the dinosaur world, eating exotic ferns and leaves all over the place. Once I’ve seen the corners of Pangea, I’d settle down with a dinosaur family and watch my dino kids go off to dino school and start dino families of their own. That’s the life I want, a titanosaur life.

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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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