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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2020 Alumni Engagement Director Eddie Issertell

Name: Eddie Issertell
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Past THON Experience:
THON 2018 Special Events Committee Member
THON 2019 Alumni Engagement Captain

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

I ran in the Philadelphia Half Marathon when I was 11 years old.

What made you want to apply for the Alumni Engagement director position for THON 2020?

I applied to be the Donor and Alumni Relations: Alumni Engagement director because I wanted to ensure that all THON alumni understand that they will forever have a home in this community. THON creates a network of young philanthropists who lose neither their passion nor their home with this organization after graduation, and the Alumni Engagement Committee gives these philanthropists the special opportunity to continue giving back to THON as they move on to new chapters in their lives.

What are your responsibilities as the Alumni Engagement Director?

As the Director of Alumni Engagement, I am the main liaison between THON and Penn State’s alumni community. I work with the Penn State Alumni Association here in State College, as well as alumni groups all across the country who raise funds and spread awareness for THON each year. I also serve on the board of directors of the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG) where I work with a passionate group of Penn State alumni who continue to spread THON’s mission after graduation. Additionally, I lead a team of 16 captains who work to further many of our different alumni initiatives and effectively communicate these opportunities with our Penn State alumni. 

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

This year, I am placing emphasis on ensuring that every Penn State alum has the opportunity to be involved in THON to the degree that they desire. This involves creating opportunities for alumni to get involved that do not include monetary donations at all. I want to make sure that those who want to go above and beyond all year long have the opportunity to do so, while also giving those who don’t wish to be quite as involved the opportunity to contribute meaningfully in a short period of time. Additionally, this year, I am focusing on extending the opportunity to fundraise with a group online to alumni. Penn State alumni have networks all across the world, and asking alumni to reach out to their networks to get involved has the potential to spread THON’s mission further than ever before. 

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

The Alumni Engagement committee is important, because as THON moves to a more sustainable fundraising model, we will be relying on our alumni more and more to be ambassadors throughout their communities around the world. The committee is also a lot of fun because you get to hear stories about how THON has developed into the amazing event that it is today. I have come to realize the lasting impact THON can have not only for the children and families impacted by childhood cancer, but also for the volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure its success. 

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2020? 

This year, my committee’s theme is “Celebrate Every Story.” I hope to invite alumni to share their stories of how THON has affected them and why they choose to stay involved in THON after graduation. For many alumni, THON connects the unique stories that bring them together and motivate them to move forward. Additionally, this year I am encouraging my committee to reevaluate every decision that has been made in the past. I believe that the only way to move forward is to question why things are the way they are, and change them if that reason is not clear. At the end of every meeting, I challenge my captains to question everything and not to be afraid to do something that has not been done before. 

Why do you THON?

THON has the unique ability to illuminate the darkest of moments. In my two years of involvement as a THON volunteer, I have been blessed with the opportunity to see firsthand how a community of students, friends, and alumni has the potential to produce more light in a single moment than any one individual could in a lifetime. I THON so that I can pour my entire heart and soul into ensuring that the light that this community produces for so many children and families never dims. THON has been a light in my life for the past two years, and I am committed to ensuring that every THON stakeholder sees that same light all year long. 

What’s your favorite THON memory?

THON has brought me countless amazing memories, but one of my favorites comes from the Donor and Alumni Reception during THON 2019. A Four Diamonds researcher, Dr. Valerie Brown, M.D., Ph.D. spoke at the event. This was the first time that I had heard a Four Diamonds researcher speak. She spoke of hope, and explained that what we are doing for THON gives her the hope that one day soon we will dance in celebration of a cure. Hearing these words that I had heard so many times before from a Four Diamonds researcher made them seem so much more genuine. I realized the immense amount of hope that the THON community produces for so many different people each and every day.

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

I’d be a pterodactyl, because I’ve always wanted a silent letter in the name of my species. It’s one of the things that keeps me up at night.

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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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