Leave it to Buckeyes to take a cause to the next level and have fun doing it. Three point two million dollars – that’s how much money was raised on the 12th Buckeye Cruise for Cancer.
The final amount may actually be higher. The $3.2 million dollars raised sets a new record for this Buckeye event which to date has raised over $20 million for cancer research and treatment in the 12 years of the cruise fund-raiser.
The money raised goes to The James which is the third largest cancer hospital in the country and part of The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. The chartered fund-raising cruise is the only one of its kind associated with a college or university.
This was my first time on the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer and and not the last. Depending on who you asked somewhere between 3,200 and 3,500 Buckeye faithful from all over the country boarded Royal Carribean’s Independence of the Sea and set sail from Ft. Lauderdale en route to Grand Cayman and the Bahamas partaking it what was essentially a five-day tailgate party, but one with a mission – to raise money for cancer research, while celebrating the joy of being a Buckeye.
The generosity displayed on the cruise would make Woody Hayes proud. His famous saying was, “You can never pay back, so you should always try to pay forward.” Pay forward they did.
Nearly all of us will be touched by cancer directly or indirectly. My father died of brain cancer, my mother had breast cancer, my sister-in-law died from leukemia, and my father-in-law had bladder cancer.
Cancer hits us all at some point. The hundreds of cancer survivors who were on the cruise were a constant reminder of the proximity cancer is to all of us. It can strike people like you and me, and it can strike at any time, and many times it strikes during the prime of life.
The cancer survivors on the cruise were grateful, inspirational, and determined to help find a cure for the many cancers out there. For some the cruise is a life-changing event.
How the Money Was Raised
So how did the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer raise $3.2 million? The 3.2 million dollars was raised any way imaginable:
- Direct donations.
- Various sponsorship levels.
- Dinners with athletes and coaches.
- Nightly 50-50 raffles.
- Car raffle sales.
- Art raffle.
- Selling corn-hole boards painted with portraits of athletes. See the corn-hole portraits below.
- Horse racing contest where former athletes were auctioned off as jockeys and then had a “sprint to the finish.” (Not really a sprint).
- The Ultimate Experience Auction where prizes included a trip to the NFL Draft, trip to see The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, tickets to the Buckeye Country Superfest, visit to Fox College Football Saturday, tickets to Jimmy Buffet Concert, trip to Napa, trip to Italy, trip to Las Vegas, trip to the Heisman Trophy Presentation, OSU Championship rings and Gold Pants (given to players for beating Michigan), among other prizes.
- Even beer drinking raised money as Coors Light made donation for ever bucket of “Silver Bullets” purchased on the cruise. For non Ohio State fans, “The Silver Bullets” is the nickname of the Ohio State Football Team defense. Not that any Buckeye needs to be motivated to consume a few adult beverages, but “Honey, I’m having one more beer for cancer” was probably echoed more than once.
Each day there was a full slate of activities some just for fun, some for education, and some to raise money. Activities included:
- Talks on cancer by cancer specialists from The James.
- College Football Preview hosted by the many Buckeyes in the media (national and local).
- Autograph sessions.
- Beer drinking contests.
- Liqour tasting lessons.
- Wine tasting
- Poker tournaments.
- Brutus Buckeye contest.
- Alumni band and cheerleader performances.
- Deep sea fishing tournament.
- Price is Right contest.
- Slot tournament.
- 3 Mile Run.
- Plenty of live music by home-grown Ohio bands plus special performance by Jake Owens.
- Cornhole contest.
- Football for Women 101
- Belly Flop contest
- and more.
Like anything else, the more you participate, the more fun you will have, and the more rewarding the experience.
Several hundred cancer survivors were on the cruise and honored on stage. See this photo by Twin Studios of Columbus showing the many cancer survivors on stage with the Columbus Band North to Nashville which played Tom Petty’s song, “I Won’t Back Down.” It was clearing a moving tribute.
History of the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer
The Buckeye Cruise for Cancer is the brain-child of Lisa Cisco. Ms. Cisco is co-owner of Travel Partners, a travel agency in Dublin, Ohio (where I live). She is the first travel agent to book an entire Royal Caribbean ship.
The idea for the cruise was sparked years ago when Ms. Cisco was on cruise that included the 1993 World Series Champions, the Toronto Blue Jays. The team only attracted a few hundred fans. She wondered if there were a good enough cause could Buckeye fans fill an entire ship?
We now know that answer, but at that time that wasn’t entirely clear. She embarked on this venture assuming great risk. There were struggles getting the maiden voyage off the ground and onto water in 2008. Ms. Cisco booked every room on the first cruise unsure if she could fill them all. She took a leap in faith.
Cancer Became the Cause
Ms. Cisco’s own mother and grandparents had been affected by cancer. Plus, her agency already served Stefanie Spielman and her family.
Ms. Spielman had breast cancer (and died in 2009). Her husband Chris was an All-American linebacker at Ohio State and played professional football for 10 plus years for the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, and Cleveland Browns (Ohio States fans already know all this) and remains a fixture in the Columbus area today.
Ms. Spielman was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 at age 30 and The Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute was established that year.
So cancer became the cause Ms. Cisco was looking for to answer her question. Could Buckeye Nation fill an entire ship? But, there also needed to be a draw or attraction for the cruise to be successful.
Former athletes would become the draw that would fill the ships. And, fill the ships they have. Typically on each cruise are 30-40 former Buckeye athletes assist who with the fund-raising by participating in the many fund-raising events.
The Buckeye athletes, many who were All-Americans and/or former and current professional athletes, have fully embraced and supported the cruise. Many of them now host their own events to raise money for cancer and other causes. Without them the cruise would not be the success it has been.
But, we are jumping ahead.
Ms. Cisco discussed the cruise idea with the Spielmans and the cruise for cancer went from being more than idea. To make the cruise successful took the cooperation and commitment of the Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, former Ohio State athletes and coaches (current), volunteers, and the staff at Travel Partners some of whom now work on The Buckeye Cruise for Cancer all-year long.
The Buckeye Cruise for Cancer now hosts/sponsors events all year to raise money for cancer. It is always looking for fun and creative ways to raise money and awareness for cancer.
The Cruise strives to out do itself each year. Can it raise more money than the year before? Can it make the cruise more fun?
I will be on the cruise next year to answer that question definitively, but I already know the answer.
True Buckeyes always strive to do more and to get better every day!
For more information on the cruise go to buckeyecruise.com