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THON Director Thursday: Meet THON 2022 Executive Director Kate Colgan

Name: Kate Colgan

Major: Public Relations

Past THON experience
THON 2018 Rules & Regulations committee member
THON 2019 Rules & Regulations Fundraising Safety captain for Fundraising Outreach
THON 2020 Rules & Regulations Fundraising Safety captain for Online Giving
THON 2021 Rules & Regulations Fundraising Safety director

Name an interesting, weird, or quirky fact about yourself.
My first THON was in 2001 when I was 2 years old!

What made you want to apply for the executive director position for THON 2022?
THON 2021 was an incredibly difficult and draining year. Though we had such incredible success, navigating the organization through a pandemic was difficult and we all felt the effects of the isolating nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, I had expected to feel by the end of last year that I had given all I had to give to this organization and cause, and that there was no more left of me to give. However, when we raised the total for THON 2021, I knew that I had more left in me and that there was more work to be done. I knew that I had more of myself to give to this organization and to our families and that I wanted to continue in the fight against childhood cancer.

What are your responsibilities as the executive director?
As the executive director, I serve as the primary liaison between THON and many of our major stakeholders, including the university, Four Diamonds, some of our larger donors, and our student volunteers. I facilitate communication between these groups, lead our executive committee, and lend a helping hand with many different projects.

What do you want to implement in your position this year that’s unique and differs from years past?
The executive director position is incredibly different year to year – it is really dependent upon the organizational challenges of that year. This year, my role required increased communication with the university and Penn State Health Children’s Hospital to ensure the safety of our students and families throughout our different events. Getting to work so closely with these different stakeholders has increased my understanding of different parts of the university and has allowed us to create safer and more inclusive events for our families which will benefit them and THON for years to come.

What makes the executive committee so cool, fun, and/or important?
The THON executive committee consists every year of some of the most passionate and hardworking individuals I have ever met and will ever hope to meet. The opportunity to be surrounded by such kind-hearted and selfless people has made me a better person and has exponentially increased my love for this organization. The executive committee is really unique though in that every single person is doing a vastly different job than the person next to them, and oftentimes, have vastly different personalities than the person next to them. However, it is incredible to see people come together who would likely have never crossed paths otherwise and form these beautiful lifelong friendships. I have gained so much appreciation for all of the different committees and their hugely important roles in making THON a success.

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2022?
To me, very simply, THON has always been home. It has been my home here at Penn State, where I have found my place at this huge school. My goal this year was to make THON a home for as many people as wanted that too. To myself and our executive committee, that meant a lot of different things. It meant lowering our barriers to entry and continuing to advance in our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. It meant consistent experiences across the board for our volunteers. It meant continuing to welcome families into our community and engaging with them in person and virtually. And I think what has caught the attention of most, was that it meant doing everything in our power to return THON home to the BJC safely. THON is not a building or a place, a weekend, or an event — it is so many things to so many different people, and I and our EC were very passionate about ensuring that for as many as would like, THON is home.

Why do you THON?
When I was little, THON was just this beautiful weekend with so many fun colors and music and I got to play with a ball with my cousins and everything was great. I was fortunate that for my family, THON was nothing more than a fun weekend — it wasn’t an escape from the horrible reality of childhood cancer. I THON so that for every family that comes to every THON Weekend of the future, it’s nothing more than just a fun time. So that on Monday, their kids are begrudgingly returning to school, not to the hospital. I THON so that we are one day dancing in celebration of a cure for childhood cancer.

What’s your favorite THON memory?
I’ve always loved witnessing others experience THON Weekend for the first time. I don’t remember my first THON, but I remember being drawn to the colors and the music from such a young age and then growing older and being so inspired by 15,000 people all gathered to celebrate the lives of kids fighting childhood cancer. While a kid, I loved talking to anyone and everyone about how amazing I found THON Weekend, but I also understood that the magic of THON truly cannot be understood until it’s experienced for the first time. My greatest joy and my favorite memories have been seeing THON Weekend through the eyes of those for whom the magic is entirely new. From family members to friends and THON committee members, seeing someone’s face light up as they first lay eyes on a full Bryce Jordan Center and truly begin to comprehend the wonder of this event is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be and why?
I’ve been told I need to give a new answer this time so, I think now I would be a triceratops. They were apparently very gentle and I could see myself having one as a pet in a kind of “How To Train Your Dragon”-esque situation.

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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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