At Penn State, THON is everywhere. You cannot attend this University without knowing about this wonderful organization. THON is the largest student run philanthropy in the world and it helps children and their families conquer pediatric cancer. THON has been a year long effort, since 1973, that has raised over $145 million. THON is student run, but someone still has to lead the show. Andrew Smith has recently been named THON’s new overall director for 2018 and we got a chance to talk to him to see what he’s all about!
HC: To begin, congratulations on being the Executive Director for THON 2018! Tell us a little bit about your position and how you got to this position through your THON experience.
AS: I started my involvement with THON as a Rules & Regulations Committee member my freshman year. Since then, I have been on R&R for my first four years, working my way up to being a Volunteer Safety Captain, and then the Volunteer Safety Director. Through the four years I’ve gotten to really challenge myself and grow both as an individual and as a leader. I was very fortunate to have Captains and Directors that always pushed me to do more and were always incredibly supportive. I attribute a lot of my current position to them. My Captains and Directors were amazing leaders, they motivated me to always try to do my best to better myself and better the entire THON Community.
HC: Are you involved in anything else on campus? Tell us about it!
AS: As of now, I’m not involved with any other organizations on campus. Over the years I was involved with Axis, a special interest organization for THON, however since becoming a Captain and then a Director, I was a less active member of the organization. I also spent a year as the president for the Smeal Statement, starting in the Spring of my sophomore year. The Smeal Statement was a small organization that strived to operate as a news outlet for Smeal, reporting on news around the college and featuring student organizations. As you can probably assume, it was a very small organization that not many have heard of, however I learned a lot from my brief time as president.
HC: What does your position entail THON weekend? We know you’ll be insanely busy!
AS: During THON Weekend, my job is to support the rest of the Executive Committee. They all have very large roles to play during the weekend specific to their Committees. My job is to be present and support them in any way that I can. I come from a security background from R&R, so I’m used to the hectic times of THON Weekend. I’m very excited to be able to step back and view the entire weekend through a wider lense and be able to contribute to each Committee’s efforts.
HC: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
AS: I think I’d say to fly. I always thought Superman was so cool when growing up because he could fly.
HC: What is your favorite THON memory?
AS: During THON Weekend 2016, R&R received an unusual call over our radio. Family Relations Captains were requesting help staffing the Kids Variety show and would need a few extra Captains to help. I volunteered to help and headed down to the South Annex. I would be escorting families and working security for the stage during the event. This was the first year I have been able to see the Kids Variety show in its entirety, and it immediately stands out as my favorite memory and my favorite stage event for THON Weekend. I love the Kids Variety show because for those few minutes that the kids are on stage, they get to be rock stars. They get to sing or perform whatever they want, and the crowd goes absolutely nuts when they’re done. And if anyone was too shy to sing, the entire crowd would join in singing to help them along. I think it’s those moments that show just how amazing the entire THON community is. Every single spectator in the BJC is uniting to support those kids and it is awesome to see.
HC: If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you, and why?
AS: I think I have to go with Rupert Grint. He has the right hair for the role.
HC: What are you looking forward to most THON weekend?
AS: I think I’m most looking forward to when the dancers stand. Being on stage for it this past year was a very surreal moment. The energy in the building was incredible and is something that I will never forget, so I’m really excited that I get to experience it again.