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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2020 Development Director Katie Solomon

Name: Katie Solomon
Major: Criminology and Sociology 

Past THON Experience:
THON 2017 Dancer Relations Committee Member
THON 2018 Development Captain
THON 2019 Development Director
THON 2020 Development Director 

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

I saw Tame Impala three times this past summer. 

What made you want to apply for the Development Director position for THON 2020?

I will never forget how I felt while watching the THON Weekend recap video, arm-in-arm with other THON volunteers — I couldn’t stop smiling (or crying) while reflecting on the most amazing year as it was all so suddenly and quickly coming to a close. Although THON 2019 was over, the fight against childhood cancer was not. I decided to re-apply for the Executive Committee to be able to continue to do everything I can to support children and families impacted by childhood cancer.

As a second-year director, I have the most amazing and unique opportunity to resume unfinished work while supporting others through their own projects and ideas. Being a director is, and will always be, the least I could do to give back to an organization that has given so many, including myself, so much. 

What are your responsibilities as the Development Director?

As the Director of Development, I am primarily responsible for fostering relationships with THON’s growing donor base and empowering all volunteers to take action in the fight. The Development Committee oversees the distribution of THONvelopes and corporate packets, coordinates event sponsorship, serves as a resource to all student organizations, and manages THON Nation, THON Weekend tours, and donor stewarding & benefitting efforts. As part of the Development and Alumni Relations Committee, we work closely with Alumni Engagement on collaborative efforts to connect THON supporters across the country to our mission.  

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

A new focus of Development and THON as a whole is stewardship. With the capability to retain donor, volunteer, and alumni information like never before, ensuring that all THON supporters feel engaged with our efforts is a high priority. No matter what form of support an individual or group has made — whether that be a financial commitment to our efforts, planning a fundraiser themselves, or even just spreading the word of THON — we are doing everything to make sure they know how appreciative we are. With new volunteer positions, collaboration with University Development peers, and thinking critically about the future of THON, I am hopeful that stewardship becomes a staple component in all of our efforts, not just fundraising. 

What makes the Development committee so cool, fun, and/or important?

One of the best parts of Development is that it is a relatively new committee within THON. In only our fifth year of existence, we have the unique and challenging opportunity to shape what the future of engagement will look like with donors, supporters, and friends of THON. Evaluating data and trying and implementing new ideas, while communicating with supporters across the country have given me an entirely new perception of THON’s impact and reach. The coolest part about Development is watching the ideas and concepts of Donor & Alumni Relations, which are usually otherwise unknown, click for others –- knowing that they will be able to continue to spread this message and impact the future of THON in a positive way. 

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

My continued goal from THON 2019 for Development is to empower all volunteers and alumni to feel connected to THON’s mission and to demonstrate their ability to employ some of the same fundraising and awareness techniques that our committee uses. This can be seen in action through DAR Chair workshops, meeting crashes, and increased resources for any volunteer to utilize in their own efforts. I also am hopeful to be able to shape the committee structure and ensure that the dynamic, positions, and overarching goals are sustainable for years to come so that the Development committee can solidify its place in the THON community. 

Why do you THON?

One of the most important THON traditions is the Perpetual Pennant Project, which memorializes the Four Diamonds children who have passed away. This project allows for their stories and memory to live on forever and empowers volunteers to continue to fight until the day that no pennant has to be added. No family or child should ever have to face cancer but with each interaction and each event, we can help to shape these experiences and add light to the darkest moments. I THON for these stories that together we create, that we shape, and that we get to carry and share with us long after our time as students. 

What’s your favorite THON memory?

When I was a sophomore, I had the opportunity to go to Penn State Children’s Hospital on a special visitor’s trip with Emily Dalo. During this visit, which was both of our first times at the hospital, we got to see a family ring the bell, tour the outpatient clinic, and learn more about the work that is being done to support comprehensive care and research. We spent the majority of our time in the outpatient clinic with a Four Diamonds family whose daughter, at the time, was actively in treatment. Fast forward to now, and that same girl can be seen cancer-free, running the THON 5K or singing her heart out on the THON Weekend stage. It is that visit and the moments in between that are some of my favorite THON memories and have defined my time as a THON Volunteer. 

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

Rex from Toy Story.

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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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