Last week, Penn State alumnus Mark Stephens finished a 170-mile journey to raise funds and awareness for THON. Walking all the way from Bethesda, MD to State College, PA, this adventure was no small feat! We connected with Mark to ask him about his experience.
DMAIG: Tell us a bit about your Penn State background. When did you graduate, what did you study, etc. What is your previous history with THON and its cause?
MS: My father taught at Penn State for 30 years, so PSU is truly part of my life experience. My wife and I met at Penn State and are true blue members of Nittany Nation. I graduated in ’86 with a degree in Liberal Arts and stayed for a Master’s in Exercise Science (‘89g). In the mid ’80’s, THON was in the White Building—Patty and I would stop in to see our friends but I was never particularly involved with THON at that point in time. Over the years, as THON grew, so did our interest in supporting THON.
DMAIG: Your fundraiser is quite a unique one. What gave you the idea to walk 170 miles For The Kids?
MS: I retired from the Navy this August. I recognized that I would likely need time to transition to a post-military career. Blending a transitional time (literally and figuratively) with supporting THON seemed like a natural fit. The walk was the culmination—I thought it would be a reasonable idea to try and contribute to PSU/THON while concurrently using the walk to reflect on things past and things to come.
DMAIG: What suggestions do you have for other Penn State alumni who want to get involved in THON, either for the first time or as a continuation from their time as a student?
MS: The student THON leaders have been fantastic. They are organized, enthusiastic and supportive. Any interested alumni would be well served to touch base with student leadership to brainstorm and bring ideas to fruition.
DMAIG: What’s next for you after this now that you’ve arrived in State College?
MS: I am thrilled to be taking a job with Penn State Health. The Penn State College of Medicine is involved in multiple innovations in medical education, one of them involving a unique and novel approach to medical school taking place here in State College. I can’t wait to join the team.
Thanks Mark for taking some time to tell us about your experience, and thanks for your commitment to THON and Penn State! Your story is inspiring, and it is THON alumni and supporters like yourself who spread THON’s story far outside central PA.
If you are interested in starting your own THON initiative, or want to know how you can get involved in your area, contact Corbin Reno, Alumni Events Director, at email@example.com.