Tutus, tango and twelve hours of dancing: How Bobcats raised over $40,000 for charity

For a full 12 hours on Saturday Feb. 13, Baker Ballroom was transformed into a discotheque of giving, receiving and most importantly, fun.

The second annual BobcaThon was held on Saturday (2/13) to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. Over 180 students gathered in Baker to dance the day away to raise money for the charity.

The orange team does a line dance at BobcaThon
The orange team does a line dance at BobcaThon

This year, BobcaThon raised over $40,000 for the Ronald McDonald house through year-long fundraising ending with a 12-hour dance marathon. Dancers sign up throughout the year and look to raise money. The year-long fundraiser ends with a day of dancing and stories from people who have stayed at the house. The majority of the money is raised by the dancers.

“It’s very empowering to be a dancer,” Meg Sanders, BobcaThon president, said. “It’s life-changing for a lot of people.”

The Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio, the largest of its kind in the world, is a charity that looks to give affordable housing to those whose children are in the Nationwide Children’s hospital for diseases and ailments. Without the charity, many families would not be able to stay close to their children while they are in the hospital. The house provides food, shelter and a supportive community to families who are affected by sickness.

Amber Fosler, a 2003 graduate of Ohio University, was the first to share her personal story about the Ronald McDonald House. Her son Elias was born without a bile duct. Because of this, his bile built up in his liver and caused deterioration of the liver. For months, Elias was in and out of the hospital with surgeries and illnesses related to his liver. For the majority of their overnight stays, the Fosler family stayed in the Ronald McDonald House.

The Fosler Family and their son Elias were residents of the Ronald McDonald House
The Fosler Family and their son Elias were residents of the Ronald McDonald House

“Other than having a clean and comfortable place to go, there was another benefit of having access to the Ronald McDonald House facilities,” Fosler said in a speech given to the BobcaThon participants. “Since birth, Elias has racked up more than $3 million dollars in insurance claims. We still had to pay out of pocket for our stay at the house. But, had we been forced to stay in a hotel, I have no idea how we would have been able to afford 60 nights. Because we had the house though, we had an amazingly affordable place to go.”

On average, it costs from $50-$100 per night for a family to stay at the house, according to Sanders. But families who stay are asked to make a donation up to $25 a night or do not have to pay at all.

“Not everyone can pay,” Fosler said. “But that’s ok; no one is ever turned down from Ronald McDonald house. And it’s only made possible by amazing people like all of you.”

With the exact amount raised being $40,473.01, families can spend over 400 nights at the Ronald McDonald house without having to pay. All thanks to the dancers and supporters of BobcaThon.

“We really all share one common goal: to put on the best dance marathon we can, and raise money for an amazing cause.” Sanders said.

Students take their clothes off for a local charity

Imagine a large group of nearly naked neon students running down Ohio University’s brick streets.

Last April, that didn’t take much imagination at all as the Student Alumni Board and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity hosted their sixth annual Bare on the Bricks charity event. They raised more than $2,000 and collected 27 bags of clothing to benefit My Sisters Place, an organization that promotes safety and self-determination for victims of domestic violence.

Zac Vance and I teamed up during the event as he conducted interviews and I photographed the fun. To check out our coverage, click on this link. With such a large turnout last year, it felt like we were in a sea of half naked glowing college students who were ready to race. Students also posted about this event by using the hashtags #NearlyNaked and #BOTB on social media.

Paint The Bare
Friends and participants used their cell phone lights to help paint faces before the Bare on the Bricks charity run last year.

 

The students were able to strip down before the race to donate clothing or cash. This was the first year for the event to be held at night and glow sticks were provided as festive lights shined around the DJ tent to get the runners excited. Balloons decorated College Green and floated from the registration, information, and donation tables.

It was time to begin! The participants lined up near College Green behind a “Get Ready…Go” sign that they ran and ripped through. Police secured a blockade to allow the safety of students as they jogged in the street. There was a finisher in less than three minutes of the start time and he is pictured in the above photo. The Pigskin hosted a post event gathering with free food and music where students could go after the run. Donating to charity AND getting free stuff at a bar, who wouldn’t do this?

Pictured on the far left in the top photo is Kendra Lutes who is the Vice President of Philanthropy for the Student Alumni Board. “[Last] year’s Bare on the Bricks presented some challenges given the postponing from the original event, but I think it’s safe to say that things turned for the better,” said Lutes. “We were so blessed to have the opportunity to plan something again and the Glow-in-the-Dark proved to be a crowd favorite! I’m excited to see how the event will grow in the future years and how we can continue to advocate for local Athens non-profit organizations.”

Will you participate in the next Bare On The Bricks run? Be on the lookout for the 2016 date by following them on Twitter to get the chance to legally run half naked at Ohio University!

All-inclusive United Campus Ministry offers volunteer opportunities

Editor’s note: In a nod to the Thanksgiving holiday, reporters for the Shopping section of Court Street Stories have decided to “shop” for a local charity. What better way to say “thanks” than to find an organization worthy of a donation or volunteer work?
What’s the UCM?

UCM logo
Their logo, including atheist, Satanic/Wicca, and humanist symbols

Religious institutions have the reputation of being exclusive and righteous to a fault. The United Campus Ministry in Athens couldn’t be more different than that.

Supported entirely by a few local congregations and personal donations, it accepts people from any faith or non-faith. Their mission is to engage the community in spiritual growth, community service and work for justice, guided by socially progressive and interfaith values.

UCM facilitates cooperative activities and discussions among people of varying, sometimes contradictory, faiths.  How can a Christian and a Satanist agree on anything about religion?  Rev. Evan Young, Campus Minister, says it’s all about open discussion.  “We encourage understanding each other and in doing so, we understand ourselves better,” he said.  “We all have the same questions: What happens to us when we die? Why do we suffer?”

The United Campus Ministry would love for you to participate in these discussions and/or get involved in their volunteering efforts this holiday. Here are just a few ways to contribute.

Thursday supper and Saturday lunch

Student and community volunteers work together to plan, prepare, set-up, and serve free, hot, nutritious meals for low-income community members. Every Thursday and Saturday.

Interfaith impact student organization

Interfaith dialogue facilitated by Rev. Young, every Thursday night (7:30-9)

Better Together

An award-winning campaign that focuses on environmental justice and food insecurity in Athens County. Students have raised money and awareness for local and international organizations including Charity Water, the SE Ohio Foodbank, and Community Food Initiatives.

Alternative break trips

Winter break trips have included Witness for Peace delegations to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela; Pine Ridge Reservation, post-Katrina New Orleans, US-Mexico border, and Washington D.C. Available to all students.

PayPal donations

UCM’s website accepts donations of any size.

Buy stuff at Kroger

Kroger gift cards are available at UCM. A percentage of grocery and gas purchases with the Kroger card will go to UCM at no cost to you. Call or email for details and to obtain your card.

Other volunteer opportunities

  • Groundskeeping and routine building maintenance
  • Bulk mailing prep (folding and labeling)
  • Fundraising and outreach events and activities

Social media

To keep up with what the ministry is doing – Follow @ucmohiou on Twitter and/or friend ‘United Campus Ministry at Ohio University’ on Facebook

Additional information on these and other actives can be found on their website.

 

 

Why you should help Keep Noah Rolling this Thanksgiving

Editor’s note: In a nod to the Thanksgiving holiday, reporters for the Shopping section of Court Street Stories have decided to “shop” for a local Athens charity. What better way to say “thanks” than to find an organization worthy of a donation or volunteer work? And full disclosure: Both the author (Dan Shisler) and editor (Bob Benz) of this story are part of Keep Noah Rolling, the organization that’s attempting to secure funds for Noah’s van.

 Thanksgiving, for many Americans, means a time to stuff themselves, watch the Detroit Lions, get their holiday shopping done or purchase a new set of appliances at an insanely low price. Yet the true spirit of Thanksgiving, giving thanks, often sadly takes a back seat to more commercial and materialistic interests.

I would like to gently remind our readers to put the turkey, football and discounts aside for a moment, and take some time to count your blessings. This holiday is a great opportunity to give thanks for all the small things that many people take for granted every day. For example: the basic abilities to walk and talk. Now, imagine your life without them.

Noah Trembly
Noah Trembly

For Noah Trembly, an Athens resident, that is his reality. Noah has cerebral palsy. Since birth, Noah has been living with a condition that prevents him from performing the most mundane actions that able-bodied people perform mindlessly every day. Noah uses a motorized wheelchair to move around and a sophisticated communication device to speak. At first glance, many people see a broken man. But I assure you: sitting inside that uncooperative body is a brilliant mind, a deviously witty sense of humor and a genuine and selfless soul.

I first learned about Noah in my strategic communication senior capstone class at Ohio University, when my professor, Bob Benz, announced that we would be working on a special project: helping one of his disabled friends raise money for a new handicap-accessible van. At first, I thought it was a good cause, but the kind of thing you hear about all the time. Just another guy in a wheelchair, just another charity case. Until I met Noah.

When Noah came to speak to the class, I could sense there was something different about him. The way he rolled into the classroom with bright eyes and a devilish grin instantly gave credence to Benz’s many anecdotes of an infectious and amicable personality. Noah, speaking through his device, told us his story. He told us how he has been living with this terrible condition his entire life. He told us about how it was an incredible struggle for him to get through school. He told us how one of his principals told his mother that he would probably never amount to anything, that he would probably never live a fulfilling or meaningful life.

The principal couldn’t have been more wrong.

Noah Trembly has been defying the odds ever since. His story is one of resilience and inspiration. Noah did not let his condition define him; he has overcome expectations and defined himself. Noah lives independently, albeit with the constant assistance of a caregiver. But that hasn’t stopped him from living his own life. Noah is a Grateful Dead fan. Noah is a skier. Noah is a gardener. Noah is a vegetarian (in fact, you may have seen him zipping around the Athens Farmers Market). Noah is an artist. But most importantly, Noah is a worker.

Noah, working through his company, Noah Trembly Enterprises, is an advocate for the disabled and a handicap-accessibility consultant. He is currently heading an initiative to improve the quality and wheelchair accessibility of sidewalks in Athens. Noah has consulted for Ohio University and has even been a lecturer at the institution. For someone with no control over his vocal cords, Noah speaks a lot. In fact, Noah has traveled throughout the state and the country giving talks. For travel, Noah relies on an old and decrepit van that is on its last legs. For Noah’s meaningful work to continue, a new van is essential.

The decked-out van Keep Noah Rolling is raising money for.
The decked-out van Keep Noah Rolling is raising money for.

Our capstone class devised a social media strategy to raise awareness and produce donations for Keep Noah Rolling, the charity whose goal it is to raise the $60,000 required for a new accessible van. With the help of Tony’s Tavern and Jackie O’s Brewpub, we held an event on Nov. 14 that we called Keep Noah Shuffling, our take on the age-old Court Street tradition. But instead of raising our BAC, we raised money for a great cause. A portion of every signature Tony’s Hot Nut sold that night went directly to the new van. Jackie O’s even brewed a very tasty beer especially for the occasion, with $2 from every pint sold going directly to the cause. We also accepted donations from generous patrons. All said and done, we raised over $2,000 that night. Unfortunately, that accounts for only a fraction of our lofty goal. For me though, the reward was the expression on Noah’s face after the event.

While we counted the donations in front of him at the end of the night, Noah’s face lit up and he let out what I’ve come to know as one of his signature bouts of boisterous belly-laughter. His smile was that of a man overwhelmed with gratitude for the tremendous outpouring of support from the community, local businesses, friends and total strangers alike. Our event was but the start of a movement; we still have a long road ahead of us.

Like so many of us, Noah simply wants to live independently, without government assistance, and to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. Noah doesn’t want a donation; he wants an investment. By investing in Noah, you are investing in his ability to help enable and empower others in similar situations.

So this Thanksgiving, give thanks, give a damn, and give your support to this wonderful cause.

For those interested in donating, you can do so here. If you can’t support Noah financially, please like and share his Facebook page here.

 

group shot
Author Dan Shisler, Bob Benz and the rest of the Keep Noah Rolling capstone team.