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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2022 Alumni Engagement Director Will Vincent

Name: Will Vincent

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Past THON Experience
THON 2020 Donor and Alumni Relations committee member
THON 2021 Alumni Engagement captain

Name an interesting, weird, or quirky fact about yourself: 
I can play “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion on the recorder.

What made you want to apply for the Alumni Engagement Director position for THON 2022? 
I wanted to serve as a director to have the opportunity to focus all my efforts on an organization that has not only introduced me to so many amazing people and brought me so much joy during my time at Penn State, but one that has also touched the lives children and families for the past five decades. With every year I have spent on the Alumni Engagement Committee, I have had the opportunity time and time again to see just how special THON’s mission is to generations of Penn Staters. Regardless of how far removed our alumni are from State College, whether in years or miles, their support and dedication to THON never cease to amaze me. They help to spread THON’s mission well beyond State College and ensure that THON will only continue to grow. I wanted to serve as the Alumni Engagement director so I would have the chance to work with THON volunteers, both past and present, and provide those who came before me the same opportunities to stay involved that I will seek out after my days in State College are over.

What are your responsibilities as the Alumni Engagement director? 
As the Alumni Engagement director, I serve as the primary liaison between THON and Penn State’s Alumni Network. Here in State College, I work alongside the Penn State Alumni Association and help engage alumni groups across the country to spread awareness and fundraise on behalf of THON. I also serve on the board of directors for the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group (DMAIG), a group of passionate Penn State alumni who work hard to continue in the fight after graduation. Finally, I lead a committee of 14 captains who work constantly to expand the variety of alumni initiatives we offer and communicate these opportunities to our alumni.

What do you want to implement in your position this year that’s unique and differs from years past? 
This year, I am looking forward to maintaining and expanding the relationships THON has with DMAIG, the Penn State Alumni Association, Alumni Groups, and alumni across the country. While these responsibilities have been passed down among Alumni Engagement Directors, this year in particular I am excited to implement new engagement opportunities with all the virtual strategies we developed last year. Penn State graduates are still unbelievably passionate and love to support THON, and I am excited to explore new opportunities through the virtual space to allow them to share their stories and experiences in ways that have not been explored in years past. Whether that be highlighting dedicated alumni groups on live streams during pre-THON events, growing THON legacy and other projects, or developing new engagement opportunities for alumni during THON Weekend, our committee is working hard to make sure that this year uses virtual engagement in our favor and allows us to reach alumni in every corner of the country.

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

While we pride ourselves on being entirely student-run philanthropy, THON benefits from the passionate and dedicated support of our amazing alumni all around the country. We get to work with supporters who are removed from State College and work to spread THON’s mission on a global scale. The relationships we maintain with those who have come before us have been and continue to be essential in the emotional and financial support we provide our families, and the Alumni Engagement Committee ensures that these relationships are sustained. We give our alumni the chance to share their stories and inspire those around them via THON Nation and other alumni support efforts.

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2022? 
This year, I want to make sure that I am focusing on fostering a community of positivity and support within my committee of 14 captains, as well as with DAR’s other 14 captains on Development. I have found a home on each of the committees I have had the honor of being a part of during my time in THON, and I am excited to be in a position now to give that same experience to my captains. As a committee, I simply want to make sure we give alumni around the country the opportunity and resources to support THON’s efforts, wherever they may be and however they may be able to do so.

Why do you THON? 
“For The Kids” has grown to be a powerful statement to me over these past two years, just as it has for generations of students before me. The families that I have interacted with, the volunteers I have met, and the stories that I have heard motivate me each day to continue to give everything I can to this organization. I cannot imagine having to face cancer at any stage of life, especially as a young child. The path that these families are forced to walk down after a diagnosis is full of darkness and uncertainty, but THON helps to illuminate that path and provide assistance and motivation during their journey. In the pursuit of the day we dance in celebration, I THON so that every kid will one day have the opportunity to experience the same childhood that we all deserve — one full of happiness, memories, and joy, not one dominated by hospital stays and treatments.

Until then, I THON to help the light that THON provides to these families shine just a bit brighter and help to dissolve some of that uncertainty and fear that is undoubtedly brought on by a diagnosis. As a college student, this organization gives me the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than myself and work to support our families during unimaginably trying times. I am honored to be in a position where I can pour everything I have into my role and cannot wait for everything that I still have left to experience within THON.

What’s your favorite THON memory? 
I have been blessed with so many inspiring moments during my THON journey, but I am still waiting for one of them to top the first time I stepped on the floor of the BJC the Friday night of my first THON, which was THON 2020. Heading into the weekend, everyone was telling me that they could not describe what THON was like and I would just have to wait and experience it myself. I could not understand why they could not just tell me what it was like, but in that very moment, it all made sense. The lights, the energy, the music, the dancers, the families – it all came together for such an amazing and indescribable experience. It is such a vivid memory in my mind and is the moment that I became aware of how much I wanted to give to this organization during my time at Penn State.

Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be and why? 
I would say a Pteranodon because I was a huge “The Land Before Time” fan growing up and Petrie (who is a Pteranodon) was easily my favorite character. Also, flying would be cool.

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About the Author

Mackenzie Cullen

Mackenzie is a senior majoring in English and is 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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