by Ella Rubenstein

Written by: Lucy Pearce, Samantha Matushek, & Kaitlyn Nguyen

There are 16 different THON™ Committees at Penn State, ranging from OPPerations to Dancer Relations to Merchandise and everything in between. In total, there are over 16,500 student volunteers that work towards transforming the Bryce Jordan Center (BJC) into the most magical place every February. THON Committees Members are guided by fearless leaders known as THON Captains. There are over 300 THON Captains that come together to educate each committee on its role for THON Weekend.  

Special Events Captain 

Paige Smethurst is a fourth-year student from West Chester, Pennsylvania, majoring in Kinesiology. As a two-time Special Events captain and previous volunteer, she has much experience when it comes to THON. Smethurst thanks her Donor and Alumni Relations (DAR) Captain, during her second-year, for inspiring her to become a captain herself. 

This year, Smethurst and her co-captain are working together to plan one of THON Weekend’s biggest events, the Pep Rally. Smethurst mentioned all the other pre-THON events that her committee works to plan such as the THON 5K Powered by PNC, 100 Days ‘Til THON, Family Carnival, THON Showcase and the Closer to a Cure Celebration. 

Photo: Cady Barcak

When asked how Smethurst manages being a THON Captain and prioritizing school work, she had nothing short of a great response. Smethurst states, “our directors always emphasize the idea of “you over school over THON” meaning that we are a person first, student second and THON Volunteer third. There are definitely sacrifices that I make, but I try to always keep in mind that I am a person and student before I am a THON Volunteer.”  

Smethurst is grateful for all her years involved in THON and will certainly miss it when she graduates, but plans to keep in touch with all the connections THON has given her.  

Rules & Regulations Committee Member 

Fourth-year Pittsburgh native, Meghan Griswold, has also been involved with THON since day one. Her high school participated in Mini-THON, which is where she first learned of the positive impacts of THON. Once Griswold decided she was coming to Penn State, she knew she needed to get involved with THON. 

Photo: Dan Hadar

Griswold has been part of Dancer Relations, R&R and Special Events. For THON 2024, she is on an R&R committee for the second time. Griswold was excited when she found out she was on R&R again, as she can use her previous experience to help others learn the role throughout the year. R&R ensures safety for every single person inside the Bryce Jordan Center during THON Weekend. This role is crucial, as the safety of the weekend depends on R&R volunteers. 

Griswold had no hesitation when answering about her favorite task during THON Weekend. “It can be tense at times, but we remind ourselves that everyone’s safety is our first priority during THON Weekend. One of my favorite responsibilities is doing security scans at the entrances. We are the first group of people visitors see and it is important to make a great first impression” Griswold said.  

Donor & Alumni Relations Captain  

Lauren Hagan is a fourth-year psychology major, whose hometown is Mohnton, Pennsylvania. She has been involved in THON for three years, starting out as a Finance Committee Member and becoming a Finance Captain in spring 2023. Hagan is currently a DAR Captain for THON 2024. DAR works to actively seek out new individual and corporate donors, maintain and enhance relationships with current donors, and instruct the volunteer community on the most efficient ways to fundraise. Their duty during THON Weekend is to give tours of the BJC to donors.  

Photo: Jacob Sparages

When asked why she loves her committee, Hagan said, “I love DAR because of the sense of community and being surrounded by some of the most passionate and caring people at Penn State.” Being a captain is a big responsibility in itself and Hagan exhibits the qualities of leadership and dedication. Her favorite THON moment, shared with her fellow co-captains so far, was seeing the total reveal for 100 Days ‘Til THON.  

Dancer Relation Committee Member 

Anna Polsky is a first-year elementary major from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Although this is her first year being involved in THON, she is very excited to be a part of such an amazing cause. Her committee is Dancer Relations, which plays a vital role during THON Weekend as they are on the floor assigned to dancers. DR CM’s support the dancers, physically and mentally, as well as work to keep them motivated to stand for 46 hours.  

Polsky has been a dancer her entire life so she understands the exhaustion that occurs and the mental strength needed to persevere. In high school, she took part in Mini-THON and fundraised for cancer research. She understands the efforts and collaboration necessary for a successful campaign. 

Being a first-year CM, she has no prior experience with THON Weekend itself, but as it approaches, she enthusiastically mentions, “My favorite part of THON so far has been meeting all the incredible people in my DR Committee. I am so glad that I’m able to be close to the dancers on THON Weekend and be there to support them.” DR CM’s do their best to encourage and tend to the dancers as they push their limits all in pursuit of a cure. 

Photo: Jacob Sparages

Overall, all THON volunteers are vital to the successful outcome of THON Weekend. Although each committee has a different role, all CM’s come together to support the mission of THON and be there For The Kids®. 

Cover photo credit to: Sami Reilly