On the Community
Those touched by BuckeyeThon all have their stories. Here are just a few.
No one wanted to tell Carter Davis that he had cancer – “leukemia” seemed a less daunting word – but he figured it out anyway. And he knew what stretched out before him: months and years of chemotherapy, all of it halting his childhood. “But I just knew that we would get through it,” he said. He was 7 then. He’s 11 now. He did get through it. He finished chemo in February (2017). Twenty-nine spinal taps and more than 80 hospital nights later, he has the chance to be a kid again. His oncologist told him he’ll be feeling normal in no time. BuckeyeThon exists for kids like Carter. It raises money to assist in their care and fuel the research that could someday end childhood cancer and blood disorders. The children know this, and they know something else: BuckeyeThon – and especially the fundraiser’s closing dance marathon – picks them up when they may be feeling at their worst. “It’s so cool when like you run down that red carpet and high-five everyone, and they’re all cheering,” he said. Carter’s story began with what seemed like a virus. Blood tests confirmed that it was much worse. Doctors told his parents that he was gravely ill.
“It didn’t really click at that point, so we walked upstairs and they said, ‘Welcome to Oncology,’” said Carter’s mom, Julie. “So that’s when we knew something was very wrong.”
They discovered BuckeyeThon during Carter’s treatment. Carter’s father, Brian, was struck by how hard the young volunteers worked and how much they gave. Relationships followed. Students quickly became family. Dance marathons felt like reunions. And in 2017, it was an especially happy reunion. Carter was nearly done with chemo and relishing the thought of not being sick anymore. He stayed up late, past 11 p.m., playing games with his college friends. Everyone wanted to play with Carter. Even he was amazed. “I turn the corner and someone is always there to say, ‘I’ll play this with you, I’ll do that,’” he said. “It’s just super cool that so many college students gather to come and help kids with pediatric cancer.”
To Anthony Stranges, cancer meant dying. He was 7 and in the second grade and had something sinister growing in his mouth. Doctors gave it the worst name. “It meant a bad ending,” he thought. But he was wrong. More than a decade later, Stranges enrolled at Ohio State, where he joined BuckeyeThon and ultimately became president of the student-driven fundraiser to beat pediatric cancer and blood disorders. During his tenure in 2016-17, BuckeyeThon raised more than $1.5 million for the kids at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
“I’ve been able to see one generation truly fighting for the next generation of students, of leaders, of people in our community,” Stranges said.
In a way, he’s also fighting for that little boy who thought cancer meant death. When he was 7, a dental hygienist discovered a discolored spot in his month. Countless exams, scans and exploratory surgeries later, doctors at Ohio State and Nationwide finally diagnosed him with a rare form of cancer. He got lucky. Surgery took care of his cancer, and it never came back. There was no bad ending. He grew up and learned about BuckeyeThon through his older sister, and he joined as a freshman. By senior year, he was finishing his degree and volunteering full-time for the cause. It ran him through a roller coaster of emotion and took an extraordinary amount of dedication, but he couldn’t help but be involved. He saw what it meant to the volunteers – and he already knew what it meant to the children.
“We’re empowering an entire community to rally behind a cause,” he said. “And it empowers these kids to see that we are working to find a cure for them.”
There’s something particularly inspiring about the dance marathon marking the conclusion of BuckeyeThon, Ohio State’s student-driven fundraiser for kids with cancer and blood disorders. Even the doctors leave feeling rejuvenated.
“When we go back to work on Monday morning, everyone is just pumped up and ready to go,” said Dr. Keri Streby, a pediatric oncologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor at Ohio State. “It brings a new energy into everyone in our division.”
And it brings even more to the hospital. BuckeyeThon funds the programs at Nationwide that help kids forget about their cancer and blood disorders for a while. Most of the money raised goes toward the hospital’s psychosocial services, which include art and music therapy, massage and – if the child is hospitalized long enough – help with school work.
“We try to do as much as we can to give them a normal kid life, but it’s very challenging at times,” Streby said. “And that’s where BuckeyeThon steps in and helps give them back their kid life.”
The money raised also goes to training and research. It assists in the slow, expensive process of discovering new treatments and getting them approved. Fighting cancer and blood disorders isn’t easy. Not for the kids who have it, and not for the doctors working hard to treat them. So the BuckeyeThon Boost – that jolt of energy that follows the dance marathon – is a welcomed weapon in the battle. “I love coming to the BuckeyeThon Dance Marathon,” Streby said. “It inspires and motivates us.”