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THON Director Thursday: Meet 2023 Merchandise Director Justin Kauffman

Name: Justin Kauffman

Major: Finance

Minor: Business Law

Past THON Experience:

THON 2020 Dancer Relations Committee Member

THON 2021 Merchandise Special Event Sales Captain

THON 2022 Merchandise Director

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

Something that is interesting about me is that I collect baseball cards. I have boxes and binders sorted alphabetically by team and still collect them to this day.

What made you want to apply for a director position for THON 2023?

I applied for a director position for THON 2023 to make a difference in the lives of our children, families, and THON volunteers. THON has been a very important part of my life since high school, and I wanted to continue to develop my passion in a leadership role while showing others my passion for this organization. THON is such a special community, not bound by a single event, place, or area, but it is all about the people that you surround yourself with. When hearing and talking to families, you just get the urge to continue to advocate on their behalf to make sure no one has to feel pain and hear the words, “your child has cancer”. Every year, my reason why I THON continues to change and develop, and being able to come back in the same role was very humbling and [an experience I was grateful] to have. My parents always taught me to be humble and always help others, and that is what I’m doing here; trying to change the lives of everyone.

What are your responsibilities as a THON Director?

As the Merchandise Director for THON 2023, my responsibilities include overseeing the THON Store, which is located in the HUB, managing our online store (check us out at store.thon.org), our social media account (Instagram: pennstatethon.store), vendor relationships, and licensing regulations. The best part of my role is working with my wonderful 19 captains in their respective positions. They all bring something different to the table, whether that is a new perspective, idea, or trait, and I’m so grateful to have them as part of the team. I could not do any of these responsibilities without them. My other roles include evaluating our merchandise finances as well as overseeing the ordering and selling of quality products in order to continue to spread awareness of THON.

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

During THON 2022, I was fortunate to have the same role. I learned a lot from last year, and I am so grateful that I can continue to build off of the success we had last year. My mission is to lay the groundwork for years to come. I am a big dreamer and want to get things done, but I also want to put the next generation of THON volunteers in a wonderful position. By laying the groundwork, we are taking a look in the mirror to see how we can improve internally the best we can in order to help everyone in the THON community. My position always feels like it is changing as fashion is changing, and the excitement it brings is truly magical. This year is unique as we have begun to evaluate different collaborations, as well as focusing on our order management process so that we can give our customers the best experience possible.

What makes your committee so cool, fun, and/or important?

The Merchandise Committee is cool because of the support we get in the community. Seeing everyone on campus and in different parts of the world wearing our THON merchandise is truly something so rewarding, it is hard to put it into words. The Merchandise Committee does not end after THON Weekend, and I think that is special when running a store that is open five days a week. Our captains and committee members do an amazing job in helping wherever is needed. I believe every committee is important to the success of THON, but Merchandise is special as we get to spread awareness of THON’s mission and also get to create a special brand that helps our entire community.

What are the overall goals you hope to reach with your committee for THON 2023?

My goals include improving as an organization, creating a different line of products, opening the door for collaborations with our brand, improving our order management system, evaluating and making our finances a priority, improving our social media presence, and of course, continuing to spread awareness in hopes that we dance in celebration.

Why do you THON?

Every year my reason changes, and I’m so fortunate to have experienced so much within the THON community. I THON to better help our families fighting, to honor the ones that lost their courageous fight, and bring awareness to THON. I also THON for the Jesse King family, because no matter who you are or where you come from, THON always has open arms to support all of our families and student volunteers.

What’s your favorite THON memory?

My favorite THON memory has to be my first THON ever. I went to Cumberland Valley High School, and we would always take a trip up to Penn State to see THON. I remember begging my teacher to let me go on the trip as a sophomore, and once I finally got to see it in my junior year, I was in awe. Walking up the stairs on the concourse made Penn State feel like home. THON is magical, and you can feel it when you enter the Bryce Jordan Center. The special thing about THON that will always be a part of me is that for one weekend a year, it doesn’t matter what organization you are a part of, what year you are, or your interests. Every single Penn State student is there to support our families fighting their fight. It is so hard to put into words the feeling the THON community brings to everyone.

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

I won’t lie — I don’t know much about dinosaurs, but I would choose a Tyrannosaurus rex because I love to be a leader however I can. Plus, they are massive. Who wouldn’t want to have a huge stature with monstrous teeth?

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a junior studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is a coffee addict, loves Taylor Swift, and can't wait to go to a concert again. Any questions can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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