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10 Questions With THON 2024 Executive Director Will Vincent

Will Vincent, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, was recently named THON’s 2024 executive director.

He previously served as THON 2023’s Special Events director, THON 2022’s Alumni Engagement director, a THON 2021 Alumni Engagement captain, and a THON 2020 Donor and Alumni Relations committee member. Vincent’s love for THON runs deep, and he is eager to ease into his role.

Onward State: Name an interesting, weird, or quirky fact about yourself.

Will Vincent: I can play “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion on the recorder.

OS: What made you want to apply to be the executive director for THON 2024?

WV: I applied to be the executive director for THON 2024 so I would have the chance to pour all of my efforts into an organization that has changed the lives of thousands of families and children battling childhood cancer.

THON has worked tirelessly for over 50 years to fight for our families, and while we still have a lot of work to do, seeing thousands of volunteers and supporters come together each year to carry on these efforts has been truly inspiring and a tremendous part of my time at Penn State. From the total revealed during THON Weekend, to laughs at Harvest Day, to seeing thousands of runners line up at the annual 5K, I have seen first-hand time and time again what makes this organization so special and how impactful our mission truly is. I have learned about all aspects of THON’s mission and have a deeper understanding of how our efforts support our families, and I wanted to continue furthering these efforts and inspiring the next generation of volunteers, all in the pursuit of no family ever having to receive the news that their child has cancer.

OS: What are your responsibilities as a THON director?

WV: My primary role is to support the 16 members of the executive committee as they work to further their committee’s efforts and expand the parts of the organization they oversee. I serve as a resource to each of them while ensuring decisions being made within this organization align with THON’s mission and Four Diamonds.

I also serve as a liaison between THON, Four Diamonds, Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, and other groups including Penn State administration, University Development, student leaders, and corporate and individual donors.

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

WV: This year, I am excited about the opportunities we have before us to enhance the experience every individual a part of THON has. No matter how someone is involved, whether as a volunteer, supporter, or in another capacity, I want to focus my year on ensuring each and every person has the best possible experience. While this is not necessarily something unique for this role, I am excited to have the opportunity to further these efforts through the executive director position.

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

WV: In this role, I have the opportunity to be involved in projects of varying sizes and work alongside others committed to furthering all aspects of our mission. Conversations I am involved in and projects I help to further include year-long fundraising efforts, corporate relationships and sponsorships, how we can continue to best support our families, sustainability efforts, alumni and volunteer engagement, and how THON can continue to grow in our efforts to become as inclusive as possible. Every day I learn something new about this organization, and every day I have the pleasure of getting the chance to talk with people who are extremely dedicated to our mission, regardless of how they are involved in THON.

OS: What are the overall goals you hope to reach with the executive committee for THON 2024?

WV: Each year, THON is presented with new challenges, and in these challenges arise new opportunities for growth. This year, I hope to work alongside the executive committee to take each challenge head-on and embrace each new opportunity as we work to further our mission.

As THON continues its work to be the most welcoming and inclusive organization possible, I am excited to further these efforts and lead an executive committee that keeps this mindset at the forefront of its work. As we continue to adapt to changes in everything from fundraising to event planning and beyond, I look forward to working alongside the executive committee to use each change as a chance to foster meaningful growth within the THON community.

Overall, I am excited to see each member of the executive committee take on their roles and lead their committees in the best way they know how, all while seeking opportunity in every challenge, adapting to unforeseen circumstances, and working to make THON a home to all.

OS: How will your past THON experiences help you in your role as executive director?

WV: During my time involved in THON, I have had the opportunity to be involved in both the fundraising and event planning sides of our mission. I have had the opportunity to lead groups of people, work with a variety of contacts both within and outside of Penn State, and I have, above all, had the chance to be around some of the most inspiring and passionate leaders I have ever met. As I move into this role, I am excited for the opportunity to use what I have learned from my experiences and from those around me to continue to develop my own leadership style!

OS: Why do you THON?

WV: In every conversation I have had with a Four Diamonds Family, every THON event I have seen, and each THON Weekend I have attended, I learned time and time again why I THON. This is a constant fight to create a future where childhood cancer ceases to exist. THON’s purpose and THON’s efforts are so much bigger than myself, and there is nothing I would rather do during my time as a college student than devote my time to impacting this organization.

It is challenging to put into words what THON has meant to me, but it is something I find easy to devote so much time and effort to because I genuinely believe in the mission and that we will, one day, dance in celebration of a cure. I THON in the pursuit of this celebration while supporting our families who still have to fight.

OS: What’s your favorite THON memory?

WV: If I had to pick just one, it would have to be when dancers stood this past THON Weekend. As we counted down and officially started off the weekend, I was suddenly overwhelmed by what was happening around me in all the best ways. Arm-in-arm with some of my best friends, we looked out as families, dancers, volunteers, and spectators stood up and took a stand against childhood cancer. Every year when dancers stand, I see it as a testament to the hard work of thousands of people who have made it a reality. To me, that is proof of the resiliency and dedication of the THON community to our mission and families. The energy and excitement of the Bryce Jordan Center in that moment is something that I will never forget.

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

WV: I would say a Pteranodon because I was a big “The Land Before Time” fan growing up. Petrie, who is a Pteranodon, was my favorite character!

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About the Author

Vikram Raj

Vikram is a second-year advertising major from Rockland County, NY. He has been a writer for Onward State since his freshman year. In his free time, he enjoys watching movies, spending quality time with the people he loves, and prioritizing wellness and self-care practices.

To get in touch with Vikram, send him an email at [email protected] or an Instagram message at @vikkraj.

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