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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2022 Dancer Relations Director Caroline O’Rorke

Name: Caroline O’Rorke
Major: Rehabilitation and human services with a minor in human development and family studies

Past THON experience:
THON 2019 — Dancer Relations committee member
THON 2020 — Special Events captain
THON 2021 — Dancer Relations captain

Name an interesting, weird, or quirky fact about yourself:
I can recite the Gettysburg Address!

What made you want to apply for the Dancer Relations director position for THON

Throughout my time at Penn State, I have been lucky enough to experience THON through so many different roles. In each position that I have had, I have learned more about this organization and have fallen more in love with this
community and our mission. As a first-year, I had the opportunity to support student volunteers selected to dance THON Weekend, as a Dancer Relations committee member. It was an amazing opportunity that allowed me to learn so much about the way THON Weekend comes together. As a second-year, I wanted to learn more about the year-long effort that THON truly is, and I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be one of the THON History Captains on Special Events. This role allowed me to educate the Penn State and THON Community on how this organization has grown and evolved since the first THON in the 70s. I was also able to support dancers through planning the THON History Tours during THON Weekend.

As a third-year, I was able to bring that knowledge back to Dancer Relations to support dancers and committee members as we tackled uncharted territory and had the first-ever virtual THON. Every year, I felt like I had more to give to this organization, and one common theme through my entire THON experience has been the passion that I have for supporting our dancers and continuously pushing boundaries to make sure we are giving them the best experience possible. Coming into this year, I have seen all of the growth that Dancer Relations has had over the past few years, but especially throughout THON 2021. I also saw the potential that we have to continue to evolve and find new, exciting ways to educate our volunteers and to prioritize the well-being and happiness of our dancers during THON 2022. Being on the executive committee has allowed me to find new ways that we can be there for the dancers, so they can be there For The Kids.

What are your responsibilities as the Dancer Relations director?
As the Dancer Relations director, my main responsibility is to ensure the safety and mental, physical, and emotional well-being of all dancers during THON Weekend. I have the honor of working with the 24 captains on my committee to coordinate all logistical aspects of the dancer experience, such as Dancer Registration, Dancer Storage, EMS, and Athletic Training services, Mail and Package Call, College of Nursing Services, the line dance, and more! This committee also works very closely with Athletic Training, EMS, University Health Services, and the College of Nursing to properly train volunteers in dancer safety practices throughout the year. In short, the Dancer Relations director is tasked with creating a culture of positivity, transparency, and support for captains and their committee members, as well as creating a safe and memorable experience for all dancers throughout THON Weekend.

What do you want to implement in your position this year that’s unique and differs from years past?
This year, I am extremely excited to implement more year-long opportunities for our dancers. While our dancers will not officially stand for 46 hours until THON Weekend, they work throughout the entire year to make that dream a reality. My captains and I are excited to provide activities and opportunities for all students trying to dance in THON 2022 at pre-THON events, so their experience as a dancer is not limited to one weekend in February but celebrated throughout the entire year.

What makes the Dancer Relations committee so cool, fun, and/or important?
I think the coolest part about Dancer Relations is the ability that all of our volunteers have the opportunity to make an impact on the life of a dancer. The Dancer Relations committee has the incredible opportunity to ensure the safety and well-being of all student volunteers who are selected to dance THON Weekend. Dancing is an incredibly special opportunity that our volunteers work so hard to have and being able to provide emotional and physical support for them throughout the weekend is a really special experience. Being able to help your peers support our families by standing for 46 hours is nothing short of inspirational. In simpler terms, our efforts can be shown through our motto, “We are there for the dancers, so they can be there for the kids.”

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2022?
My main goal for this year is to foster a community of support and inclusivity within our committee. THON has always been a home for me at Penn State, and I, as well as my 24 amazing captains, are passionate about making sure our volunteers have that sense of home within THON as well.

Why do you THON?
My first experience with THON was in 2014 when my brother was a freshman at Penn State. My family had heard so much about THON Weekend, and we wanted to see it for ourselves. This visit came only a few months after my friend Dan was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma. I had watched our community support him in every way imaginable but coming to the BJC and seeing 16,500 students come together in a fight against childhood cancer showed support in a way I had never seen before. Since then, I have had the opportunity to connect with so many of our families and they have all become even more reasons why I THON. I THON to provide unconditional support to our families through every step of their cancer journey, and to ensure that one day the floor of the BJC will no longer be occupied by cancers standing for a cure but will instead be filled with the entire THON Community dancing in celebration. For The Kids, For The Families, For The Angels, always.

What’s your favorite THON memory?
This is an answer that constantly changes for me, but currently, I think my favorite THON memory is watching the THON 2021 total reveal. Last year was unlike anything we had ever experienced before, and every THON Volunteer really pushed the boundaries of their positions to adjust to a virtual setting. There were constant challenges throughout the last year, but despite those challenges, the THON community remained so dedicated to creating the best event for our families. Something that makes THON so special is the fact that we provide so much more to our families than just a monetary donation. As an organization, we provide lifelong connections and unwavering support for each of our families. Watching the executive committee hold up that total, knowing that through such a difficult year we were still able to reach those goals, is a moment I will never forget. Though we couldn’t all be together in the BJC, that moment showed the world how resilient the THON community truly is, and it is a year I will always be proud to have been a part of.

Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, which would you be and why?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have an answer for this. However, the National Geographic Kids Dinosaur Personality Quiz told me that I am a Spinosaurus, so I guess I would probably have to go with that. Apparently, they swim and like to have fun!

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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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