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Risk Management Shouldn’t Stifle THON’s Mission

THON will no longer permit fundraising that requires students to travel outside of State College, the organization announced Monday. While the decision is supposed to mitigate risk for THON volunteers traveling, in reality, it coddles legal adults, limits fundraising opportunities, and puts an undue burden on our town and gown relationship.

THON is already bleeding the State College community dry. In fact, that’s why canning was expanded beyond the borders of Happy Valley in the first place: State College was “canned-out” by the 80s.

I can’t think of a business downtown that doesn’t already support THON in some manner. Many of these businesses are so heavily solicited that they’re forced to put a cap on fundraising opportunities and support organizations on a first-come, first-served basis. Alternative fundraisers held in State College can only do so much. Likewise, the number of students and community members in State College can only give so much.

I know what you’re thinking — there’s DonorDrive, which allows anyone online to donate to THON without volunteers even putting in much time or effort.

But as donations are solicited from hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations and causes, it’s hard to believe THON will continue to experience an up-shoot in online donations. What happens when DonorDrive reaches a period of “relatively stagnant growth” like canning supposedly did?

As THON seeks to spread its efforts and mission globally with initiatives like THON Nation, it seems counterproductive to limit in-person fundraising to State College, or students’ hometowns during Thanksgiving and winter breaks. Punching in your credit card number online could never provide the same understanding or relationship with THON as in-person fundraising.

“With this decision, we recognize the need to provide alternative fundraising methods in order to engage all THON volunteers and stakeholders,” THON said in a statement announcing the policy change. But we’re left in the dark about what these alternative fundraising methods might be.

Many of the reasons for eliminating canvassing and other travel-based fundraisers appear to be the same reasons for eliminating canning, and it remains a misguided decision by THON. Perhaps former Onward State staffer Alex Bauer said it best when the canning decision was announced in 2016:

Underneath the unbearable weight of the public’s desire for something to change, THON (or more likely, the university) gave into the pressure and eliminated canning. They did something. They tried. They decided that we, the adult volunteers, cannot be trusted to drive a car to raise money for one of the best causes there is.

If students can’t be trusted to drive, it’s easy to speculate about what other THON traditions may be at stake. For instance, many THON orgs and committees coordinate retreats at off-campus locations, and more importantly, trips to visit their THON families. Aren’t they also at risk?

Accidents happen everywhere, not just in THON. There comes a point when the university must trust students to make the right decisions to hopefully mitigate these accidents. But life happens, and we shouldn’t let risk management get in the way.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa is a senior public relations major and the managing editor of Onward State. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Send questions and comments via e-mail ([email protected]) and follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.


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