by Scott Katherine

Written by: Emily Galiano, Cecily Battaglia & Angela Ramirez

Every year the Penn State community comes together to fight against childhood cancer. One of the events that kickstarts this endeavor is the THON™ 5K powered by PNC. For a more thorough look behind the scenes of this event we interviewed Special Events Director Aidan Johnson and Special Events 5K/Development Captains for THON 2024, Sophie Collins and Raven Criscitello. Special Events Captains and Committee Members are able to spread THON’s message through year-long events outside of the 46-hour dance marathon.

The THON Around the World Challenge is an event leading up to the THON 5K powered by PNC in which the THON community is challenged to move 25,000 miles together. This is equivalent to the length that it takes to go around the world. We asked the Special Events Director to give us some insight on that initiative before jumping into our other questions.

Aidan stated that, “the week-long initiative encourages participants within the THON community, locally or anywhere really, to move with us. They could pledge a certain amount of money for every mile they moved as a fundraising initiative as well. It was a great way to involve as many people in the THON community in the 5K that couldn’t make it to the State College community and it turned out really great.”  

We then asked Aidan, Raven, and Sophie a few questions about what lead them to their positions this year.

Photo: Sarah Lynn DeCarlo

Why did you first get involved in THON?

Raven: “I was personally impacted at a young age when my baby cousin unfortunately passed away from a heart disease. I saw how another foundation was able to help her take care of her costs and the emotional toll that it also had on her family. Seeing that THON has a similar mission in helping families both financially and emotionally is really empowering to me. The fact that I can be a part of something so much bigger than myself is incredible.”

Sophie: “When I came to Penn State I knew I wanted to be a part of THON. It just seems like what you do when you come to Penn State.”

What inspiried you to join the Special Events Committee?

Aidan: “What drew me to the special events committee is the fact that you help curate so many memories that last for all sorts of volunteers, attendees and THON Four Diamonds families. You create such special moments throughout the year. Like Sophie said, it really emphasizes THON’s year-long efforts. And for example, here today we have over 5,000 individuals in attendance supporting the THON community, creating those memories like I said. And I think, for lack of a better term, that it is pretty special to be on the special events committee.”

Sophie said her favorite part of being a part of the special events committee is that she “has a role in all of these events throughout the year. Your friends put on all of these events and you can support them in all different ways just by being there and helping them.”  

We wrapped up the interview by asking what it took to bring everything together for the THON 5K powered by PNC. Sophie told us that coordinating an event this large requires months of preparation. She described that the planning process began in April and has included every THON committee throughout it. Involving committees of different expertises helped ensure that this large event ran as smoothly as possible. She also stated that, “we’ve had so many different events here throughout the morning. We’ve had family speakers, a pep rally, the line dance, t-shirt toss, and lots of other different crowd engagement games.” All of these undoubtedly required a lot of time and hard work behind the scenes.

Lastly, we asked them to describe their feelings about the morning so far. Aidan described his feelings as “ecstatic, proud of the community, and thankful for the volunteers”, and Sophie described her feelings as “chilly, grateful, and a smashing success.” 

Header Photo: Gracie Behr