Manufacturing the magical moments

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Tommy Misiak was a senior at Saucon Valley High School in the fall of 2013 when his football coach, a Penn State alumnus, asked if he wanted to help start a mini THON benefiting Four Diamonds. Misiak agreed, though he knew very little about the cause.

What he also didn’t realize then was that this decision would introduce him to an organization that would change his life.

Now a senior at Penn State pursuing a degree in industrial engineering, Misiak is the family relations director for THON 2018.

“I’d say the biggest thing that motivated me [to be involved with THON] was that I wanted to do more, and I knew I could,” Misiak said of his journey to his current position.

After his involvement in high school that sparked an interest in helping in the fight against pediatric cancer, Misiak looked to get involved with THON in any way he could when he got to Penn State. During his freshman year, he spent his time in the stands with his fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta. He said he loved it so much, he ended up spending 40 of the 46 hours there that weekend, and he knew he had to do more.

“I kept looking down on the floor and thinking I wanted to do something to help this come together and to help make it happen,” he said.

The following summer he did just that, applying to be a member of the entertainment committee for THON 2016. In this role, Misiak was able to see an entirely different side to THON.

He was more involved but again, he felt that he needed to do more. So Misiak applied and was accepted to be a family relations captain the following year. After a year of working on the Adopt-a-Family Team to support the Four Diamonds families during THON 2017, Misiak made the decision to apply to be the family relations director of THON 2018.

“There were a couple of things that happened during THON weekend where I dealt with tough situations and I felt I handled things well. So I thought, ‘you know what, I can do this. I can handle this and go to the next level,’ so I made the decision to apply and here I am,” he explained.

In the role, Misiak has a myriad of responsibilities, but above all else he serves as a liaison to the Four Diamonds families to make sure that they stay at the heart of everything.

Misiak and the family relations captains

As the family relations director, Misiak leads a committee of 23 family relations captains that work together to serve as a liaison between THON and the Four Diamonds families.

Image: Penn State

“The number one thing the family relations committee does is make sure to think about how each decision is going to affect the families. I’m that main voice that can see both sides of any issue and communicate what is right for the families,” he explained. “In addition, this committee is the main emotional support system for families. We’re the ones families come to with questions, frustrations and even to share happy moments. People rely on us to be there for them.”

Misiak said he and his fellow committee members work to make sure that during every THON event that Four Diamonds families come to, there is a strong family relations presence to support them and to make sure they have everything they need in order to make the most of the experience.

With time ticking down to when the dancers, committee members, supporters, children and families head to the Bryce Jordan Center to celebrate THON 2018, Misiak and his team are working harder than ever to get ready. Between his fellow directors on the executive committee and the captains on his own committee, Misiak says he has the “world’s best support system” and that they are working together to make this year’s THON go smoothly.

In addition to his dedication to THON as a director, Misiak has also devoted much of his college life to industrial engineering and his future career.

Misiak has accepted a full-time position with Caterpillar after his graduation in May, following an internship he completed with the company last summer. Beginning in July 2018, he will be working in Caterpillar’s Leadership and Technical Development-Operations Leadership Program (LTDP).

“Through Caterpillar’s LTDP program, I’ll have a three year rotation where I have three different job assignments. I’ll be moving around to three different locations in the United States, one each year,” he said.

With a bright future ahead of him, Misiak has a lot to look forward to. For now though, he is focusing on this weekend, and THON.

When asked what he is most excited about for THON 2018, Misiak was able to explain it in two simple words: magical moments.

“A family up on the stage, speaking for family hour and sharing their story ... and 16,000-plus people are quiet, listening. That magical moment,” he explained. “The moment where a child walks up on stage for the talent show, and they’re singing and everyone’s singing along with them just to make him or her feel like a superstar for that time period ... that is a magical moment. Even the simple magical moment of some little kid running by and I just give them a wave and they smile. I can’t wait to give everyone I see those special memories from THON.”

So with THON 2018 around the corner, keep an eye out for Misiak on the floor as he works to make each child and family feel the love, excitement and, most importantly, the magic of THON.

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Last Updated February 16, 2018