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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2020 Executive Director Regina Duesler

Name: Regina Duesler

Major: Masters of Accounting (MAcc) and Finance

Past THON Experience:

THON 2016: Finance Committee Member

THON 2017: Finance Captain

THON 2018: Finance Captain

THON 2019: Finance Director

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

I’m really good at Chubby Bunny!

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

When I joined a Finance committee freshman year, I never would have imagined the impact that THON has made on my life. I vividly remember getting ready to attend my first THON, and although I was on a committee all year, I had no idea what to expect. The sense of community and hope I felt during my first THON has not left me since that weekend, and motivates me every day to do everything I can for the families.

THON is such an exciting time with so much opportunities, and I want to ensure that I do everything I can for THON to continue the legacy that has been created over the past 47 years. The families I have met over the past four years have such different stories, yet are all connected through THON and the support that all 16,500 volunteers provide year after year. I want to be sure THON provides that emotional support far beyond the day we dance in celebration of a cure.

What are your responsibilities as the Executive Director?

There are a few different facets of the role of Executive Director. First and foremost, I have the pleasure of overseeing the 16 members of the Executive Committee and being a resource for them throughout the year. We work together to complete all extensive projects, while continuing to accomplish day-to-day tasks. I also work with many individual donors, as well as university administrators and contacts where I maintain relationships and steward these essential stakeholders of the organization.

Another large part of my role is being the main liaison to Four Diamonds. I work closely with their Executive Director and other members of their staff, as well as serve on the Four Diamonds Advisory Board to ensure we are aligned in our efforts. Finally, I am able to be the spokesperson for THON to ensure that we are upholding our mission to best serve the families each day.

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

This year, I was focused on outreach and reaching out to individual donors that have made a significant impact on THON in the past. My goal was to re-engage them and demonstrate THON’s growth and success in our shift in fundraising model. I am passionate about having personal connections to our supporters, and I did my best to continuously reach out and get to know the reasons why our donors give each year!

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

The coolest aspect of my role is the fact that I never have a day that is the same. I go from meetings about PR, to a run-through of the THON Weekend timeline, to a meeting with Penn State administration, etc., and it’s always exciting! I have also had the chance to get to see every side of THON, from administration and staff, to the hospital and Four Diamonds staff, to families, to organizations, and to volunteers. The impact that every single person has on THON culminates into an indescribable synergy that makes the magic of THON, and I feel incredibly lucky to be a witness to that.

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

This year, it was my goal to live out our Executive Committee’s theme, Inspire Every Voice. I wanted to ensure that every volunteer felt empowered to share their connection to THON’s mission. This was the motivation behind the Dream Forward Campaign, which highlighted different aspects of THON’s mission from varying perspectives. It
wasn’t just about raising money but re-focusing our volunteers on why we care in the first place.

In addition to connecting volunteers to the mission, I tried to connect with volunteers personally. This year, the Executive Committee focused on appreciating volunteers, stewarding donors, and being approachable if anyone needed assistance. Creating a sense of community is very important to me, and I feel that was achieved!

Why do you THON?

I THON to give kids a chance to change the world. Through THON, I have seen thousands of volunteers changing the world each day through hard work, passion, and dedication, and I would love for every kid to grow up and make their mark. The impact that little moments can have on others gives me hope, and I want every kid to experience life’s little moments.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

When I visited Hershey my sophomore year, I was able to see one of the kids ringing the bell to signify his end of chemotherapy. It was absolutely incredible to see that monumental moment in his journey, however I was reminded of the terrible reality that cancer brings to these families. This moment is always vivid in my mind and I think back to it when I need extra motivation.

During THON 2019, I was able to meet that family again two years after that day. We chatted for a few minutes, and I heard about how much their organization and THON does for them. It was the first time that I witnessed the reality of the “emotional support” firsthand, and was one of my favorite memories from the weekend. Another moment I will never forget is going up to the upper bowl during the Final Four to see all of the Finance captains and committee members together. It was the first time all weekend that I saw everyone together, and I was so grateful for each one of them and everything they accomplished during the year.

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

A velociraptor because apparently, they are always hungry, and so am I.

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Sadly, Mackenzie graduated from Penn State in 2022. She majored in English and served as one of Onward State's associate editors. You can keep up with her life and send compliments to @MackenzieC__ on Twitter.

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