Engineering students making their mark on THON 2010

Engineering students are making their mark on the fight against childhood cancer with more than 15 organizations and four overall chairpersons working with Penn State Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) 2010.

Elyse Adams, a fifth-year student in bioengineering and mechanical engineering; Michael Audey, a fifth-year student in mechanical and nuclear engineering; Eric Peltier, a computer engineering senior; and Caitlin Zankowski, an industrial engineering senior, all serve as overall chairpersons for THON 2010.

THON is a yearlong effort to raise funds and create awareness for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. Since 1977, THON has raised more than $61 million for the fund, which helps offset the cost of treatment and other expenses for families of children suffering from pediatric cancer. THON 2010 will be held from Feb. 19 to 21, at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Although their THON experiences have been different, the overall chairpersons have all dedicated a majority of their college careers to help raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund in their own unique ways.

Adams, overall public relations chairperson, is responsible for creating awareness for THON, communicating with the media and overseeing the committees and students involved with event planning, publications and photography.

"This year we are really focusing on educating our supporters and volunteers about pediatric cancer," explained Adams. "We have been working to spread more awareness about our cause and organization."

Audey, overall hospitality chairperson, began working with the hospitality committee his sophomore year. The following year he became captain of the hospitality committee and was responsible for generating community donations and overseeing the members of the committee.

"As overall chairperson I act as a liaison with all of the other committees," said Audey. "I also make sure that the members of my committee are comfortable working with community members."

Like his fellow chairpersons, Peltier began his THON experience his first semester at Penn State and continued to work with the organization throughout his college career.

Peltier, overall technology chairperson, oversees all technology aspects of THON. The technology committee is responsible for the administration of the THON store Web site, the PASS System, THON.org and THINK, which is an information management system designed to reduce mistakes and administrative overhead within THON. Technology captains also assist the other committees by providing tutorials on how to use various technologies.

Zankowski, overall chairperson, holds the highest-ranking student position. She is usually stationed in the THON office, located in the HUB-Robeson Center, answering e-mails and phone calls, and helping volunteers.

"It's important for me to just be available," said Zankowski. "I am there to support everyone involved with THON and offer them advice."

One thing that all four chairpersons can agree on is that balancing time as an engineering student and being involved with THON is a difficult task.

The engineering students stated that their lives are not like the average Penn State student and that their sleeping habits, eating schedules and personal relationships have been affected by the amount of time they spend working on THON. However, these minor inconveniences are insignificant to the millions of dollars they are helping to raise to fight childhood cancer.

One of the most rewarding parts for each of the overall chairpersons is seeing their fellow students actively engaged in the student-run philanthropy and building relationships with the families and children.

"Knowing that I am a part of something that helps save lives and has helped thousands of families has been a remarkable experience," said Peltier.

For a full list of engineering organizations and students involved with THON 2010, visit http://www.thon.org/ online.

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Last Updated February 16, 2010