Dancing the Night Away to Kick Cancer’s Butt
Related Video: “BuckeyeThon 2013: Thank You”
Thousands of students burst into the doors of the Ohio Union with one goal in mind: to kick cancer’s butt while dancing the night away. Dancers had donned magenta sunglasses, sky blue tutus, canary yellow backward caps and snazzy knee socks in all of the colors of the rainbow.
They had to keep up the energy so the 2013 BuckeyeThon on February 9 would be the biggest yet. Last year the dance marathon lasted 12 hours and raised more than $450,000. This year, the event would take place in two 12-hour shifts to allow more students to dance comfortably, which, in turn, would allow for more money to be raised. The goal this year was much more ambitious; these Ohio State students had plans to inspire donations of $550,000.
It was impossible to keep count of the number of times that boisterous dancers chanted, “For the kids.” This dance marathon wasn’t raising money to bring Beyoncé to campus. The money wouldn’t even be going towards building a shiny new campus hangout. By raising more than half a million dollars, these students hoped that they could buy the end to cancer.
Children in the hematology and oncology department of Nationwide Children’s Hospital have seen more pain than adults more than three times their age. Cancer has very painful effects on a child. From destroying their joints and bones to weakening their small bodies’ defenses against common illness, cancer fights hard and it doesn’t fight fair.
In 2001, Ohio State students created BuckeyeThon to fight back. In style.
Hinduja makes his mark as BuckeyeThon president
“Ohio State has given me so much to be successful,” Suraj Hinduja said. “It’s given me a life that I had never imagined, and BuckeyeThon is my way of giving back.”
In 2011, a curious Hinduja met with Rachel Prescott who was that year’s BuckeyeThon president to discuss the event that he had only read about. Prescott, who went on to graduate later that year with a bachelor’s in exercise science, “gave me an overview and briefed me on what successes BuckeyeThon had had,” he shared. Hinduja was then serving as the event operations logistics chair, but he had his sights set on the big enchilada: the presidency.
Adding the additional responsibilities to an already packed schedule would seem like a daunting task to some, but Hinduja was excited to be a part of something great. The senior Special Education major also serves as a university ambassador and a first-year orientation leader. “I love working the long days,” he said. “I really enjoy talking with prospective students and families and showing them why I love Ohio State.”
As president, Hinduja worked tirelessly with his committee to discuss benchmarking and strategic planning to ensure that the 2013 BuckeyeThon was a well-oiled machine well before students even thought about signing up to dance their way into a cancer-free world.
BuckeyeThon organizers had invited high schools to join in by holding their own fundraisers. But the Dublin, Ohio, native increased the number of participating high school dance marathons from four to seven. Gahanna Lincoln High School decided to forgo its annual winter homecoming dance and instead push to raise $8,000 for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The Lions team raised $8,067 during its five-hour dance marathon.
“We want to spread a culture of philanthropy with the high school students,” Hinduja said. “We want to show them that Ohio State has a culture of giving that’s infectious.”
So how did they do?
It was 10:40 p.m. and the thousands of students who had been dancing and laughing just a few minutes before were silent. Friends, those who had known each other for years or simply a few hours, grasped hands so tightly their knuckles turned white.
Hinduja was nervous.
The goal of registering 3,000 student dancers was surpassed in November 2012, and a record-breaking 3,600 men and women had signed up by February. That number didn’t even include high school marathon participants. What about the monetary goal, though? The $550,000 total sure seemed overly ambitious now. Was it too lofty?
Fourteen students slowly raised posters individually to announce the total to all of the dancers standing in the Ohio Union. The posters were raised backwards, starting with the number of cents, to intensify the moment of unveiling.
First up were three posters that simply said “F,” “T,” and “K”: meaning “For the Kids.”
Next up, the posters reading “.29”. Okay, they had raised more than 29 cents, at least. The tension rose as Orton Hall bells rang ominously as each poster was raised.
The last four posters remained. “8” was first. Then “0.” Fingers grasped tighter. “What if it’s only $508,000?” students asked themselves. Two more posters to go.
Hinduja had the honor of holding the most important sign. He hadn’t been told the final number, so he would be surprised with the rest of the crowd. He trembled as he raised his poster.
Looking up, Hinduja cracked one of the biggest smiles of the night.
A number had never looked so good in his life. The crowd went wild as the final poster showing a dollar sign was raised. The tears that had welled in students’ eyes fell almost immediately.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital would use that amount to help those patients who, unlike the students who were exhausted dancing a 12-hour dance marathon, were fighting through pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“It just goes to show what Buckeyes can do,” Hinduja said. “We can celebrate that we have completed the journey. Together. As one.”