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May 13, 2019

The Buckeye Cruise for Cancer: Cruising for a Cause

Buckeye Cruise for CancerLeave it to Buckeyes to take a cause to the next level and have fun doing it. Not only do they have a good time, but the Buckeye Cruise For Cancer raises lots of money as well.

Approximately, $3.2 million dollars was raised on the 12th Buckeye cruise, and it 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.

My Personal Experience With The Buckeye Cruise For Cancer

My first time on the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer was definitely not the last. Depending on who you asked of the 3,200 and 3,500 Buckeye faithful, it what was essentially a five-day tailgate party. However, there was one mission, which was 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 close proximity cancer has to everyone. It can strike people like you and me, and it can strike at any time, and many times it hits 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.

Buckeye cruise for cancer
Cake of Ohio Stadium

How the Money Was Raised

So how did the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer raise $3.2 million? Well, the money was raised any way imaginable:

  • Direct donations.
  • Various sponsorship levels.
  • Dinners with athletes and coaches.
  • Nightly 50-50 raffles.
  • Car raffle sales.
  • Bingo.
  • 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.”
  • 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, among other prizes.
  • Even beer drinking raised money as Coors Light made a donation for every 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.


Buckeye Cruise for CancerBuckeye Cruise For Cancer: Activities

Each day there was a full slate of activities some just for fun, some for education, and some to raise money. Here are the 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.
  • Liquor 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 a special performance by Jake Owens.
  • Cornhole contest.
  • Football for Women 101
  • Belly Flop contest

Like anything else, the more you participate, the more fun you will have, and the more rewarding the experience.

Buckeye Cruise For Cancer: Cancer Survivors

Hundreds of 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. 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 a cruise that included the 1993 World Series Champions and the Toronto Blue Jays. The team only attracted a few hundred fans, so 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 it wasn’t entirely clear. She embarked on this venture assuming a great risk. There were struggles getting the maiden voyage off the ground and onto the water in 2008. Ms. Cisco booked every room on the first cruise unsure if she could fill them all. She took a leap of 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 and remains a fixture in the Columbus area today.

Unfortunately, Ms. Spielman was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 at age 30, which was the same year James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute was established.

Therefore, cancer became the cause of Ms. Cisco was looking for, but there was still a lingering question. Could Buckeye Nation fill an entire ship?

With that in mind, former athletes become the draw that would fill the ships. Typically on each cruise, there are 30-40 former Buckeye athletes who assist with the money-raising by participating in the many funding events.

The Buckeye athletes—many who were All-Americans or 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 became more than an idea. To make it successful, it took the cooperation of the Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, The James Cancer Hospital, and Solove Research Institute. Plus, the commitment of former Ohio State current athletes and coaches, volunteers, and the staff at Travel Partners.

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 outdo 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!

Additional Ways To Give To Cancer Research

The Buckeye Cruise is a blast, but if you can’t make the trip, there are several ways to lend your support to the cause. Check them out below:

Learn More About Cancer

The more you know about cancer, the better you are for spreading awareness. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. If you can help someone who is newly diagnosed with cancer understand more about their condition, you’re doing your part. 


Many cancer organizations host groups that focus on research, policy concern, and fundraising—which requires the help of volunteers.

Lend Your Support

Cancer patients often need a lot of assistance. You can help out by preparing meals, running errands, and doing domestic chores. Even if you don’t have lots of money to give, your time is appreciated as well.

Participate In Research Studies

Believe it or not, you don’t have to have cancer to participate in research studies. Scientists need as many people as possible, to help them learn more. Here is a little more about what the studies are for:

Studies done on the family members of cancer patients helps researchers determine if they have a higher risk of getting the disease.

Cancer screening tests help researchers find different ways to detect cancer.

Cohort studies follow groups of people to study the outcome of their conditions.

Cancer prevention trial help to discover ways to prevent people from getting cancer.

Donate Tissue

By experimenting with tissue is a great way for medical professionals to diagnose, prevent, and treat cancer. Thankfully, people who don’t have cancer can contribute and give their tissue for research purposes. Giving tissue doesn’t mean you have to provide organs or anything drastic.  Offering your hair, skin, nails, blood, or urine works just fine. By providing your tissue, you can help save lives. 

Plus, there’s no need to worry—your tissue can’t be used without your consent. On the other hand, you don’t get to choose what research your tissue is used for. But your primary goal should be to help out however you can if you choose to donate tissue.

Combating Cancer

Believe it or not, one of the primary ways to kick cancer’s butt is by practicing prevention. The less chance you have of getting cancer, the slower the epidimic. As with anything, the best way to fight a problem isn’t just by resolving the issue, but by combating the root problem. Here are a few ways you can prevent cancer:

Get Cancer Screenings On A Regular Basis

If you get cancer screenings regularly, it can help you can the disease early. If you’re in the early stages of cancer, the cells are small, haven’t spread to other parts of the body, and they’re easier to treat. Plus, when it comes to colon and cervical cancers, early detection can prevent cancer from developing at all. 

Maintain A Healthy Weight

Being obese puts you at a greater risk for colon, breast, kidney, pancreatic, esophagus, and endometrium cancer. Controlling your weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise lowers your chances of cancer significantly.


To piggy back of of the tip above, physical activity is vital in reducing the risk of cancer in the colon, breast, prostate and endometrium. It also minimizes the risk of other harmful diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Adults should do at least two hours of moderate physical activity and an hour and a half of vigorous exercise per week. You can do a brisk walk or do something that gets your heart pumping and makes you sweat.

On the other hand, children do one hour of moderate or vigorous exercise per day, at least three times a week.


No Smoking Or Tobacco Use

Tobacco is the leading cause of 1 out of 5 deaths, and 480,000 premature deaths per year, according to the American Cancer Society. Approximately, 80 percent of lung cancer deather and 30 percent of all cancer dealth are a direct result of tobacco use. 

Reduce Alcohol Intake

Alcohol can increase the risk of mouth, throat, voice, liver, colon, breast, and rectal cancer. Te more alcoholic beverages you drink, the higher the risk. Men shouldn’t consume more than two drinks per day and women no more than one. Furthermore, one drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1 ½ ounces of 80-proof liquor.

A Healthy Diet

According to studies, eating fruit, veggies, and whole grains, fish, and poultry reduces the risk of developing cancer. However, eating processed foods and red meat increases the risk. The American Cancer Society suggests the following:

Eating breads, pastas, and cereal from whole grains rather than refined grains. 

Reduce the amount of sweets you eat.

Consume at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and veggies per day.

Eat less red meat like beef, pork, and lamb. As well as processed meat like sausage, bacon, lunch meat, and hot dogs.

Final Thoughts On The Buckeye Cruise For Cancer

It’s safe to say that cancer is a serious problem, but luckily there are organizations that are making a difference. The concept behind the Buckeye Cruise For Cancer is amazing, and it’s the perfect way for cancer survivors and their families to enjoy themselves. The cruise is a great way for the participants to enjoy themselves, especially after stressful health situations occur. You can’t get much better than cruising for a cause. Likewise, as stated before, even if you can’t go on a trip, there are several ways to support cancer organizations. 

The bottom line is, there are people out there who could use your help and there are several ways to lend it!

For more information on the cruise go to buckeyecruise.com

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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