Meet THON 2019 Executive Director Kelly McCready
Major: Human Development and Family Studies
Past THON Experience:
Freshman Year: Dancer Relations Committee Member
Sophomore Year: Alumni Engagement Captain
Junior Year: Alumni Engagement Director
Name an interesting, weird, or quirky fact about yourself:
I once auditioned for an American Girl Doll movie in New York City! I obviously didn’t get this, and my dreams of being a movie star when I was eight were short-lived.
What made you want to apply for the Executive Director position for THON 2019?
I wanted to be the Executive Director of THON 2019 to support families impacted by childhood cancer, be a positive leader to the THON Community, and instill my vision for the organization to create growth for THON. I wanted to bring various perspectives to the organization that will allow all areas of the THON community to thrive and be recognized. Through my application and interview process, I reminded myself of the purpose we continue fighting every day and dedicating countless hours toward this cause, and that is to ensure we are providing emotional and financial support for all families suffering with childhood cancer. As the face of this organization, my intentions are to welcome and create ways to expand our donor and volunteer base and empower our various stakeholders for their efforts.
Throughout the years, I have grown and developed as a leader, and I felt ready to take on this next journey of impacting the entire organization. I wanted to lead and motivate the Executive Committee and allow their ideas come to life as well. Overall, I wanted to create a brighter future that allowed the organization to be successful for years to come.
What are your responsibilities as the Executive Director?
I have a role in all of the moving parts of the organization. I lead the Executive Committee of 16 Committee Directors, and I am a resource for them through the entire year from questions, meetings, projects, etc. This involves helping to execute large initiatives planned by the Executive Committee. In addition, I serve on the Four Diamonds Advisory Board, and I act as the main liaison to our beneficiary. This involves me working with the Executive Director of Four Diamonds and other members of their staff extensively. I work closely with THON’s individual donors and corporate sponsors to build relationships and steward their contributions. I also act as a liaison to many university administrators and contacts where I maintain relationships and continue this strong partnership. Lastly, I act as a face of the organization and use my vision for THON to better the organization and support to the families.
What do you want to implement in your position this year that’s unique and differs from years past?
This year, I had a large focus on being more purposeful in our outreach and building relationships with students, alumni, and supporters. For example, I expressed in my application in March my desire to focus on student outreach. Through this, we have built our recruitment structure and how we interact with diverse students. From meeting with many multicultural organizations, we decided to create a focus group devoted to diversity where we have open discussions on how we can improve our involvement with students and organizations. In addition, we worked toward improving resources to students, and we have made user-friendly opportunities for alumni and supporters to be involved, such as THON Nation. We have recognized that there are many unique volunteers and supporters of THON, and I wanted to ensure that they all had a simple way to contribute to THON that fit their needs.
What makes being the Executive Director so cool, fun, and/or important?
Being the Executive Director has been such a privilege. This has opened my eyes to incredible opportunities at Penn State and philanthropy. It has been remarkable to experience such wide varieties of THON. For example, in one evening I could have dinner with a donor, discussion about our volunteer experience, brainstorm about our online giving strategy, and have a walkthrough for an upcoming event. It has been really interesting to see all sides of an organization and be able to have a role. Part of this involves taking such new and innovative ideas, and actually having the opportunity to make them happen. My favorite moments have been our big picture conversations with members of the Executive Committee that result into amazing ideas. It also has been inspiring to work with partners at the university who have helped shape THON through the years.
What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2019?
My goal was to be a positive and approachable leader in THON that encouraged ideas and new involvement in the THON community. Whether that was encouraging someone to join a special interest org, motivating a new organization to join THON, or creating an opportunity for an alumnus in Florida to participate in the THON 5K, I wanted to give everyone a reason to THON. I wanted to help people realize that they can be a part of the change no matter who they are, and they can be the reason THON reaches its goals.
Why do you THON?
My family friend became a Four Diamonds child when I was in high school, which is how I was introduced to THON. This family allowed me to see the impact the organization had within their lives at a young age. I have been blessed to have been given the privileges of family, health, etc., which are aspects of life I didn’t deserve more than any other individual. For some reason though, there are people who were born or given the diagnosis of cancer and other unavoidable diseases. It is up to me, someone who has the luxury of simply living, to give all I have to ensure every child has the same opportunities I did. I also THON for the community it creates. When I first joined THON, I was inspired by the hardship so many individuals have clearly faced, but the sense of hope we all had to continue fighting. THON gives individuals the opportunity to come together and express their emotions while remaining resilient towards a cure. THON develops leaders while always having its mission at the forefront, and I’m amazed by what we are able to accomplish each year for families impacted by cancer.
What’s your favorite THON memory?
My favorite memory from this year was Harvest Day in the fall. This was one of the most care-free days I had where I was able to just enjoy time with the families and dedicated volunteers. Our goal was to give families the best experience, and the laughs, memories, and moments that were created in just a few hours will stick with me forever. I am amazed by the emotional support we give to our families, and spending a day making a child smile is the best feeling.
Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
Last year I said a Deinonychus, so I am going to stick with that! This is just because I took a Dinosaur extinction class freshman year and it is one of the few I remember learning about.
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About the Author
Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal, and Anthony Cassar all finished the NCAA Championships atop the podium for Penn State wrestling.
“Whatever I can do to help Penn State and give back, that’s the mission.”
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