This weekend, hundreds of Penn Staters will once again gather in the heart of Manhattan to celebrate the New York City Hope Gala, an annual event that raises money for THON and the Four Diamonds.
We got to speak with Jon Florio (’11) and Sara Leary (’14) who are both Communications Directors for the event. Florio focuses on media and supporter communication, while Leary takes on social media and creative design.
While the event is sold out, there are plenty of ways to stay connected. You can register for the silent auction by clicking here – with items like signed memoribilia and tickets to see The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, you don’t want to miss out! Sisters Katie and Sydney Bush (a Four Diamonds family) will be taking over their Instagram throughout the event, and Hope Gala volunteers will be posting from Facebook and Twitterand using the hashtag #NYCHopeGala. The event will be emceed by Penn State alumna Kim Jones, and Devon and Leah Still will be making an appearance to present the first-ever Leah Still Award for Courage to Penn State alumnus and cancer survivor Ryan McGarry. Finally, you can continue to donate to this event by clicking here.
Both Jon and Sara were heavily involved with THON during their time at Penn State. Florio danced for Penn State Schuykill in 2008 and then became the group’s THON chair the next year, and continued on as a member of Atlas during his junior and senior year while also participating as a Special Events committee member and Morale committee member, respectively. Leary started out as a freshman on the Morale committee and then moved on to the Public Relations committee where she volunteered as a Photography committee member, Publication Management captain, and finally as a Photography captain during her senior year. Leary was also involved through the Penn State Lionettes Dance Team, supporting the Ashley Fazekas family throughout her time in school and onward.
This weekend, though, will be a totally new experience for Florio and Leary as this is their first NYC Hope Gala! Florio is looking forward to “taking it all in” since it’s “been a year of hard work, and I look forward to celebrating with everyone and meeting many of our supporters for the first time.” Leary noted that she’s excited for her parents to join in on the fun and can’t wait to celebrate alongside her friends and fellow directors.
When asked why they continued their THON involvement post-graduation, each had plenty to say about the amazing cause.
Leary noted, “Graduating from Penn State, while extremely rewarding, meant losing the place I called home for the last four years. With that, meant losing the opportunity to be involved with THON as a student. While you can definitely get involved in many ways as an alumna, it was not something that I could so easily give up. Getting involved with The Hope Gala was a perfect fit, because it allowed me to help support the mission of THON and Four Diamonds after graduating, while also incorporating my professional interests and skill set. “
Florio said, “As with many Penn State students, THON was a huge part of my time in college. I lived and breathed THON and learned that amazing things can happen when a group of people work together towards a common goal. Once I settled into the ‘real world,’ I knew I wanted to get involved in an activity outside of work. The Hope Gala not only gave me an opportunity to stay involved with THON, it was a natural fit professionally as I work in healthcare communications at a large public relations agency in NYC.”
This event is sure to be a fun one, so make sure you follow along on social media as mentioned above! For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.