For the kids, BuckeyeThon sets records in fight against pediatric cancer
Organization has raised over $11 million for Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Update: BuckeyeThon students raised $1,606,087.99 For The Kids at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
For Nina Ryan, service is second nature. The current president of BuckeyeThon was part of a similar youth philanthropy organization at her Columbus-area high school and joined the BuckeyeThon team when she arrived at The Ohio State University as a first-year student.
“I’ve really been a part of it since my sophomore year of high school, and my brother was a part of BuckeyeThon as well. He was on the executive board, so I think it’s a part of my family,” she said.
Now as a third-year public policy major, Ryan is helping to lead the largest student-run philanthropy in the state of Ohio as it kicks off its busiest weekend. BuckeyeThon’s largest event is the dance marathon, the fundraising year-culminating event that brings together thousands of Buckeyes in the Ohio Union. The marathon starts Friday night and runs until Saturday evening.
“This event is a culmination of an entire year’s worth of events and planning and fundraising,” Ryan said. “This event is important because it is celebrating the kids who are with us at Ohio State and is also celebrating the kids that we’re fighting for.”
BuckeyeThon raises funds and awareness for the Hematology/Oncology Floor at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, with the ultimate goal of ending pediatric cancer. Since its founding, BuckeyeThon has raised over $11.5 million for Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
For Kristin Oliphant, those donations make a real difference for the lives of families confronting a pediatric cancer diagnosis. Oliphant, an Ohio State alumna and digital fundraising specialist for the Alumni Association, first learned about BuckeyeThon when her sister, Lauryn, was receiving treatment for leukemia.
“Because of BuckeyeThon we were able to stay at Children’s. We were able to get care. It was care for the patient, care for the siblings, all of those aspects,” she said. “Because it’s mentally exhausting, it’s physically exhausting, it’s emotionally exhausting and it’s spiritually exhausting. But just knowing that all of these people are behind that same goal of ending pediatric cancer is phenomenal.”
Lauryn lost her battle with cancer in 2016, but Kristin keeps fighting in her honor. She remembers speaking to the students at BuckeyeThon and feeling a connection and a shared purpose.
“I made a promise to her that I was going to do whatever I could to help end pediatric cancer in any way I knew how,” she said. “Looking around and seeing all those students, I pull them in to remind them that their presence and their passion in this movement is just as important as mine. This wouldn’t be possible if they weren’t all here.”
This year’s dance marathon consists of two 12-hour shifts, with approximately 2,000 students dancing in each shift. Students are required to do their own fundraising to participate. Ryan said they have become increasingly creative in their efforts to raise money for BuckeyeThon.
“People will create TikTok videos for donations. They will post funny pictures of themselves from when they were young for donations,” she said. “People will sell bracelets, they'll make art, they will walk your dog for you.”
For Ryan, two moments help her appreciate the community connections of BuckeyeThon: one at the beginning and one at the end of the dance marathon.
“I love to stand at the opening ceremonies, looking out over all of the people who have not been to the dance marathon before, because for about 80 percent of those people this is their first time, and I love watching their faces as they’re confused in the beginning and then they realize the gravity of what they’re a part of, that this is our community and that it is something amazing. It gives me chills,” she said. “And then, of course, singing Carmen Ohio, after the [fundraising] reveal, no matter the total number that we’ve raised before or what we will raise, the community behind it’s just beautiful.”