by Hanna Bernett

Atlas is one of the biggest Special Interest Organizations at Penn State, devoting countless hours to raising tens (or sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars each year for THON. The group was founded in 2005, and has been a source of community for its members and paired families ever since.

Emma Moul (‘22), the Executive Chair for Atlas, has been involved with the organization since the very first week of her freshman year. She reminisced, “It was the very first THON meeting I went to and I immediately fell in love with the fun and welcoming community that they are. I knew that I didn’t want to go anywhere else because all of the members seemed so amazing and fun while helping a great cause at the same time”. 

The org’s usual fundraising includes THONvelopes, dobos, members selling ribbons in their hometowns, alumni THON nation fundraisers, as well as various alternative fundraisers.

 “This position is a lot of fun because I get to be creative in finding new ways to raise money For The Kids. This year especially I had to be super creative because a lot of our typical fundraisers couldn’t be done virtually or didn’t abide by THON’s COVID guidelines. We had to do a 180 in a lot of ways and even cut a lot of fundraisers from the year. Fortunately, we have a great team of executive board members and captains that helped in creating new fundraisers,” explained Moul. 

Atlas’s fundraising was still widely successful while following COVID guidelines. The group held virtual fitness classes and baking nights, virtual friendship auctions, and competitions to see who could get the most steps per day. During THON weekend, Atlas facilitated a polar bear plunge where members could dare their friends to pour ice water on their heads or jump in the snow, which doubled as a fundraiser and an unorthodox way to help members stay awake all weekend!

During THON weekend, dancers were excited to represent the organization’s five paired families, but one child in particular matched the enthusiasm of Atlas’s members. “One of our kids, Samir, never wanted to leave the Zoom call and he was up with us until 7 am and then when everyone told him to get some sleep so he could be awake for the final four, he still didn’t want to go. He was put in a breakout room by himself with his camera off so he could sleep without leaving the Zoom. He was the biggest support and hype-man. The dancers and members got so much energy from him-which we much appreciated!”, said Emma Moul. 

Now that COVID restrictions are easing up, Atlas has resumed in-person fundraising. Emma Moul mentioned that the organization is actively brainstorming new ways to fundraise while managing virtual and in-person events.

Atlas’s innovation and creativity when it comes to fundraising, as well as their passion for their families, is incredibly inspiring. It’s easy to see that the org will only continue to inspire us as they grow and change along with THON itself!