Four liberal arts students serving as 2021 THON directors

Katie Moats
February 17, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As the world’s largest student-run philanthropy, the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon — known as THON — raises millions of dollars each year for Four Diamonds to fund pediatric cancer research and support children and families fighting childhood cancer. Though fundraising efforts occur year-round, THON culminates in an annual weekend that is completely run by student volunteers.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s THON weekend will be much different than previous years. The 46-hour event, which begins at 6 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 19, will be held virtually. There will be no in-person spectators, dancers, or participants at the Bryce Jordan Center; all dancers and supporters will instead individually participate in THON from their own homes, and dancers will be asked to take breaks during designated rest hours between midnight and 6 a.m.

While the format for this year’s THON is different, the excitement and the goals remain the same for everyone involved, including the 16 students that comprise THON's executive board. Four of the 16 executive board directors are students in the College of the Liberal Arts; here are their stories.

Katie Solomon, THON 2021 executive director

As executive director of THON 2021, Katie Solomon (senior, criminology and sociology) oversees the executive committee and serves as a resource for the entire THON community. 

IMAGE: Bridget Lennon, THON Production Captain

Katie Solomon

Solomon, a senior majoring in sociology and criminology, is THON 2021’s executive director. In that role, she oversees the Executive Committee and serves as THON’s primary liaison to Penn State's administration and the University community. Solomon facilitates all THON meetings and communicates with donors; she also sits on the Four Diamonds Advisory Board.

Solomon’s first experience with THON came in 2014 in support of her older sister, who was dancing that year. As she spent time on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center, helped her sister wash her hair in a bathroom sink, and learned the line dance, she said she remembers feeling “a sense of community like [she] never had before.”

Since then, Solomon has served on the dancer relations committee (2017), was a development captain (2018), and was director of donor and alumni relations: development (2019, 2020). She said serving as the development director gave her a new perspective and allowed her to “see the bigger picture of how THON operates as an organization through collaborations with other committees and external stakeholders. I saw the impact that THON has on so many outside of our Pennsylvania bubble across the country.”

Solomon’s most impactful memory of THON occurred this past August when the organization decided to go completely virtual for 2021. Even though she and the rest of the executive committee were extremely nervous to deliver this news, she said that they received a flood of support from the THON community.

“I knew then that this community will not stop for anything but a cure,” she said.

Solomon’s advice for this year’s dancers and volunteers is for them to remember why they got involved with THON in the first place.

“THON Weekend may look a little different this year, but that does not mean at its core our purpose has changed,” she explained. “Our efforts truly are year-round, and you should be so proud of what you have accomplished during the THON 2021 year.”

Kate Colgan, Rules and Regulations Fundraising Safety Director

As rules and regulations fundraising safety director of THON 2021, Kate Colgan (senior, public relations with minors in sociology and psychology) administers the rulebook and serves as the primary liaison between different focus groups and her committee. 

IMAGE: Mike Ferrone, THON Public Relations Photography Captain

Kate Colgan

Colgan is a senior majoring in public relations with double minors in sociology and psychology, which she plans to turn into a career with a non-profit after graduation.

Colgan grew up with THON as a presence in her life, beginning with her cousins’ involvement when she was two years old. As a child, she said, she loved attending THON Weekend. As she grew older, however, she fell in love with THON’s purpose to help others. She was involved in Mini-THON in middle school and high school, which helped her realize how much she wanted to come to Penn State and continue being involved in THON.

“My greatest joy and favorite memories have been seeing THON Weekend through the eyes of those for whom the magic is entirely new,” she added.

As THON’s rules and regulations fundraising safety director, Colgan administers the THON 2021 Rulebook and serves as the primary liaison between different focus groups and her committee. She oversees captains who are in charge of THON’s fundraising website, DonorDrive, and helps all student organizations with coordinating their fundraising efforts.

Before stepping into her current role, Colgan was a 2018 rules and regulations committee member, a 2019 fundraising safety/fundraising outreach captain, and 2020 fundraising safety/online giving captain.

Anne Papandreas, THON 2021 Family Relations Director

As family relations director of THON 2021, Anne Papandreas (senior, biobehavioral health with minors in psychology and diversity and inclusion) is responsible for leading 22 captains and their respective committees to facilitate interactions between THON volunteers and families. 

IMAGE: Kerry McCann, THON Public Relations Photography Captain

Anne Papandreas

Papandreas is a senior majoring in biobehavioral health with minors in psychology and diversity and inclusion in health and human development. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a master of social work degree with a clinical concentration.

Papandreas became interested in THON when she noticed the feeling of community that was so prevalent in the families and student volunteers.

“I was blown away by the sheer love that Penn State students poured into the battles of our THON families, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that impact,” she said.

Papandreas is THON’s 2021 family relations director. In this role, she is responsible for leading 22 captains as they and their committees facilitate interactions between volunteers and THON families. This includes initiating Four Diamonds programming such as the TEENetwork, the Penn Pal Program, Captain-In-Training and New Family Orientation, among others. She is also responsible for pairing families with THON organizations through the Adopt-A-Family Program, as well as educating the THON community on families’ stories.

So far, she said, her favorite THON memory has been attending the vigil that Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) and Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) set up to honor the life of their THON child, Joyce Ortiz.

“This event allowed me to see firsthand the immense impact that a group unified by hope and love can have,” Papandreas said. “Feeling the THON community come together to celebrate Joyce's life was one of the most special experiences that I have ever been a part of. Saying goodbye to Joyce took a toll on so many individuals, from her own family to ATO and ZTA, from family relations to the entire THON community; she was strong, determined, and so loved.”

Papandreas previously served on the dancer relations committee (2018), was a public relations/media relations captain (2019), and a family relations administrative assistance captain (2020).

Brian Seitz, THON 2021 Special Events Director

As special events director of THON 2021, Brian Seitz (senior, rehabilitation and human services with minors in psychology and deafness and hearing studies) is responsible for overseeing every aspect of pre-THON events.

IMAGE: Courtesy of THON

Brian Seitz

Seitz is a senior studying rehabilitation and human services, with double minors in psychology and deafness and hearing studies. After graduation, said Seitz, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in occupational therapy so that he can eventually work as an occupational therapist.

As THON’s special events director, Seitz is responsible for overseeing every aspect of pre-THON events, which typically includes the THON 5K, the 100 Days ‘til THON Celebrations, the Family Carnival, THON Showcase, No Hair Don’t Care, and all THON athletic events. Seitz previously served on the dancer relations committee (2018), was a family relations captain/family events coordinator (2019), and a dancer relations captain/events coordinator.

Seitz' favorite THON memory was orchestrating the Kids Talent Show during THON Weekend 2019, he said, during which children had the opportunity to perform in front of a packed Bryce Jordan Center.

For more information about THON, visit the website at thon.org.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 18, 2021