Today marks five years since the first time that I ever heard of THON.
I was a senior in high school visiting my mom's family for a classic Steele Thanksgiving, and I had just committed to Penn State's main campus. Following the turkey feast and pumpkin gobs, I found myself catching up with relatives and telling them of my future aspirations. I was a senior in high school and I was determined to be a mechanical engineer. Did I really understand what that totally meant? Probably not. But I knew that Penn State had unlimited opportunity, and I was set on starting a new life in State College.
Music was my life day in and day out growing up, and all I wanted to do was continue that when I finally got to college. Unfortunately, I found out very quickly that this wouldn't be a realistic dream for me. Music and engineering just didn't seem to mesh very well. With all of the work I had to complete and classes to attend, finding time to practice quickly became impossible. But there was one bit of hope.
Aside from all of the talk about future goals, Penn State memories, and growing up nonsense, there was one conversation on that Thanksgiving Day that has always stuck with me. To this day, I tell people I got involved in this organization because of one statement made by my cousin. Nothing extravagant or mind-blowing at the time, but she told me that if I did nothing else at Penn State, I had to get involved in THON. And at the time, I had no idea what that even meant, but as the school year rolled around, I quickly learned what this THON thing was all about.
Since that moment when I interviewed for my first ever OPP Committee, I would never have predicted being where I am today. Being in a place where I've made an unbelievable amount of friends and learned so much about life. Not just friends that you make from year-to-year, like elementary school where each new homeroom becomes your next set of best friends, but people that you can truly count on in life and people that stick with you even after they've graduated. I have made my very best friends through this organization. No matter what our background is or how we got involved with THON, that is so minuscule in the grand scheme of it all. The fact that we ended up at the same school with one common interest in helping to fight for these kids is what matters.
I am thankful for every opportunity that this organization has given me. I don't know where my life would have taken me if I hadn't been involved with THON since my freshman year. Like so many people I know, I would've regretted wasting that first year of college and missing out on the magic within this organization. THON has given me a purpose at Penn State and a place to call home. The people I meet every single year have helped change my life in one way or another. These moments, these memories, these people - this is what I hang on to as life races on by in my fifth year of college. Sometimes it's hard to believe that it's been five years since I first heard about THON. Even moreso, it's hard to believe that as the first semester wraps up here, I am experiencing most of these events and memories for the very last time as a student volunteer. My last mat cleaning, last THON 5K, and last, very best Family Carnival with the craziest, weirdest group of people in the entire world.
From day one, this group of Captains has taught me what it takes to be a leader. They have inspired me in more ways than I could have ever imagined with their hard work and dedication in everything they do. They empower me to provide the best THON experience I possibly can for each and every one of them. In return, all 21 make sure to keep me in line with their sarcastic remarks and endless love. We share endless laughs, spending every waking moment together planning events from the ground up, and sometimes I feel like we don't spend enough time together. There are not enough days left in this year to truly express how fortunate and happy I am having chosen such an amazing group of people to share my last year with. But I will remind them every single day how lucky I really am and how fortunate I have been to lead such a passionate group of individuals.
Of all things in life, I would've never imagined that four letter word having such a significant impact on who I am today. The confidence I have gained from this organization blows my mind because I am not afraid to express who I am or share the love I feel every single day.
I have found a new passion in life, and these kids that we fight for have taught me everything that I know today. Happy 'Five Years' Thanksgiving!