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Family Mentality Key To Eclipse’s Rapid Growth, THON 2020 Fundraising Success

Though it was founded only four years ago, Eclipse has become one of the largest THON special interest organizations and a highly effective fundraiser at Penn State. At THON 2020, Eclipse was recognized as the top fundraising special interest organization with $158,169.93. Last year, the org came in third place.

A group of freshmen in Packer Hall founded Eclipse in the spring of 2015. They wanted to be involved in THON but didn’t feel welcomed by other orgs, and before long, they had an officially established THON org that fall.

When Eclipse first launched, it was made up of about 30 members. The org was able to develop a family feeling in its early years, forming close bonds with one another and promoting inclusivity. Now, Eclipse has around 500 members.

Since the original founders have since graduated, current Eclipse president Tom Onanuga wanted to make sure that he and his executive board maintained that close-knit philosophy that the founders had created with general body members.

“We wanted to make sure that we establish a close bond between [the members],” Onanuga said, “and that they felt like that they were really a part of a family because that’s how [Eclipse] started.”

While the organization’s fundraising goal was to beat last year’s total of almost $120,000, Onanuga wanted to keep the fundraising focus on members trying their best to contribute instead of focusing on being No. 1.

Courtesy of Tom Onanuga

The org set the fundraising bar at $100,000 initially. Once they reached that goal, Onanuga told Eclipse members that if they reached $125,000, he would walk around campus in a shark costume for a week as an incentive.

Eclipse held a slew of fundraisers, including Pie-an-Exec-Member, Pet of the Week, and THONvelopes, which raised more than $20,000 for THON alone.

It was an emotional moment when THON 2020 Executive Director Regina Duesler announced that Eclipse had made the largest contribution to THON 2020 of any special interest organization. Onanuga said that he and other members cried tears of joy.

“I was so happy,” Onanuga said. “I was so proud of everybody. It was surreal.”

Onanuga credits Eclipse’s efforts to both the members and especially to its executive board — vice president of marketing Jack Maloney, vice president of business Nikhil Patel, treasurer Noah Meehan, alternative fundraising chair Nichole Schneider, donor and alumni relations chair Ava Silverman, secretary Katie Saylor, THON chair Allison Wissler, family relations chair Emily Treesh-Colon, communications chair Alexis Slowinski, member development chair Tess Kehoe, and merchandising chair Cloe Evans.

The Eclipse executive board and Onanuga have already considered THON 2021 plans, which includes sticking to the inclusivity blueprint that’s already been laid out for the organization. However, he also wants to make adjustments to what didn’t work for Eclipse this year while maintaining the tight-knit bond between old and new members.

“I feel like it’s really where it comes in, because you can’t get everyone without people like believing in the cause, believing in each other, doing it for each other, and feeling like they belong here,” Onanuga said. “When you feel like you belong somewhere, then you’re really going to put your heart into it.”

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Mackenzie is a junior majoring in English and one of Onward State's associate editors. She is from Minersville, PA, and is always trying to explain exactly where that is. Send all compliments to [email protected] or @MackenzieC__ on Twitter.

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