Bailey Ramsey fell in love with BuckeyeThon Dance Marathon as a freshman at Ohio State.
Since then, she’s fought her own cancer battle, survived it and gained a new perspective on what BuckeyeThon’s children and families have endured.
“I’ve always loved working with children. They’re the most resilient, bright people in the world,” said Ramsey, BuckeyeThon’s director of family relations and a psychology major who aspires to work in pediatric health care. “Something I really saw first-hand through my own experience is how much their families go through.
“That’s a big reason I wanted to become the director of family relations this year, so I could work directly with the children and families. I have this passion to help – and now I can really relate to what they’ve gone through.”
What Ramsey went through at the end of 2019 was a long, unexplained illness. But on Feb. 1, 2020, she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Ironically, one week later, BuckeyeThon held its Dance Marathon, for which Ramsey herself had worked tirelessly to support and raise money.
She watched it from her hospital bed while getting her first round of chemotherapy.
“That was so weird,” she said. “I was getting text messages all day. I was able to FaceTime in and be distracted from getting the chemo. Everyone was wearing orange ribbons for me and showing me so much support. That’s another reason I love BuckeyeThon so much. They never stopped supporting me.”
Ramsey endured four rounds of chemotherapy over the course of five lonely months due to COVID-19 hospital lockdowns, which only allowed visits from parents. However, by mid-July 2020, she was declared cancer free, much quicker than expected.
“When I did my bell ringing (after being declared cancer free), I got pretty emotional,” Ramsey said. “That’s when I finally cried. I wasn’t super emotional when I was diagnosed. It was definitely a shock but I had this gut feeling that, you know what? I’m going to get through this.
"During that time, it felt like I didn't have control of anything. Having cancer. Being stuck in a hospital. Chemotherapy. It was difficult, obviously. And seeing my parents, my sister, my best friends so sad, that hurt me. That was almost worse than having cancer. But the one thing I could control was my attitude. I could be positive for myself and for everyone else. So that was my mindset."
Even while fighting cancer and being off campus due to being immunocompromised in 2020, she remained heavily involved in BuckeyeThon as a fundraiser and team member, according to her close friend Carly Hawk, vice president of strategic programs for BuckeyeThon.
“We were in total shock when she got diagnosed. It made the cause very real for all of us,” Hawk said. “But her attitude was, ‘I’m going to beat this,’ and I think that positive energy helped everyone close to her.
“She didn’t want people to be sad or stop what they’re doing, which was awesome, and now she’s come back full force.”
In January, when she returned to campus, Ramsey jumped into the role of director of family relations, building relationships with both Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the BuckeyeThon families. That includes organizing events and programs like Buckeye Buddies for the families.
And it all led up to the Dance Marathon, where it was revealed that the group raised $1,025,812.46 for kids battling cancer and blood disorders. The event remains inspiring to Ramsey.
“The energy, the spirit, the excitement, seeing all the kids and families," Ramsey said. "I remember my first dance marathon, hearing all the families’ stories, I remember thinking: This is really special. I’ve just fallen in love with BuckeyeThon and this effort.”