06:29 AM

New video: BuckeyeThon inspires hope in fight against cancer

Alicia Hall thinks of the students who lead BuckeyeThon at The Ohio State University as her adopted children.

The central Ohio mother of four and her family are celebrating their 14th BuckeyeThon Dance Marathon this weekend. Hall has been a fan and supporter of the student-run philanthropy since her daughter, Avalon, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was only 17 months old.

Hall learned about BuckeyeThon while Avalon was receiving treatment and became one of the first families to physically represent what the organization was trying to fight.

“We fell madly in love with these kids because [BuckeyeThon] doesn’t just raise money for cancer kids. It teaches the students that they’re part of something bigger than themselves,” Hall said.

From a humble beginning in 1999, the philanthropic effort has grown into a massive campus-wide event. BuckeyeThon’s first dance marathon was held in 2002 with 108 dancers and 206 volunteers. Students danced for 26 hours and raised more than $32,000.

Fast forward to this weekend: The two-day event set a new fundraising record as students involved with BuckeyeThon raised $1,704,184.19. Since its founding, BuckeyeThon has raised over $9.8 million and boosted awareness for the Hematology/Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“Having been involved this long, we are getting to see some of the ripples in the pond,” Hall said.

She said she knows students who have organized BuckeyeThon who are now in medical school or business leaders and continue to give back.

“It’s fun to see how much the campus is involved and that it’s something that everybody knows. Now you say BuckeyeThon and everybody at Ohio State knows what it is and they know what they’re fighting for – they know they're fighting for cancer kids,” she said.

Hall and her family are part of that fight. They continue to enjoy the dance marathon every year and help fundraise. Her children Ambrosia, Avalon and Anam are part of the yellow dance team for the weekend festivities.

Ambrosia is a senior in high school but takes pre-college classes at Ohio State. She’s co-captain of a team that raised $5,000 this year.

Avalon, a ninth-grader, said that as a cancer survivor, it’s vital to give back as well.

“That’s why we help out so much with BuckeyeThon. Because I’m trying to give back what they gave to me in that really hard time,” she said.

The desire to give back is what motivates the student organizers of BuckeyeThon. Students work year-round to support the families and kids going through treatment. As a program of the Office of Student Life at Ohio State, BuckeyeThon engages thousands of students annually.

“We have the ability to do all we can to help families in any way possible through art therapy or music therapy or lifesaving research,” said Bill Tucker, vice president of outreach and engagement for BuckeyeThon. “So I think it’s our duty as civil servants and members of the community to do the best we can to make their lives as easy as possible and possibly save lives of those in the future that are unfortunately affected by pediatric cancer.”

Tucker, a third-year human resources major, has helped with BuckeyeThon since he was a first-year student. He said his favorite moment comes at the end of the dance marathon when the fundraising total is revealed. That’s the payoff for long weeks and hours to put it all together.

Hall said that commitment means the most to her.

“This is a full-time job in addition to being a student and these students are not always going into a career that this is going to help. They’re just doing this out of the goodness of their heart, and that’s one of the most amazing things.”