Buckeye Cruise Does It Again

The seventh edition of the Buckeye Cruise finished up Monday morning, and the event was once again a great success, topping $1 million in money raised for the James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute at Ohio State.

Up until now, what I knew about the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer was basically what you could figure out from the name – the cruise is all about Ohio State pride and raising money to help defeat cancer.

What I didn't know until this week, though, is that you could call it the friendliest cruise in the world as well.

From the moment I arrived at the airport until stepping off the plane today in Columbus, everyone on board could not have been friendlier along the way. That was especially helpful for me considering I went on the cruise by myself and was left at the mercy of others when it came to entertainment options.

Fortunately, some old friends on board and a number of other people I met along the way – fans, OSU employees and even some former players – stepped up in that regard and went above and beyond to make me feel welcome.

That, to me, is why the annual cruise, put together by Travel Partners in Dublin, has been so successful. Sure, it's for a great cause and the presence of the Buckeyes on board is a huge draw, but just about everyone I talked to mentioned that it's the friendly faces that bring them back every year.

When I arrived at the Columbus airport on Thursday morning, the air was already filled with chatter as people who in many cases hadn't seen each other in the year since the last cruise were catching up and telling stories. That camaraderie continued through the baggage claim this afternoon at Port Columbus.

Add in the well over a million dollars raised this year for the Urban and Shelley Meyer Fund at the James Cancer Center, pushing the total near $5 million since the cruise's inception in 2008, and you have a recipe for great success. I can only imagine the event will keep getting bigger and better from here, and I know Lisa Cisco, Chris Quinn and everyone else at Travel Partners will be doing their part to ensure that's the case.

They are the engine that makes the event go, and their planning was superb all the way through. The Buckeye-themed events, from the two autograph sessions to the auction that brought in more than $700,000 to the Buckeye Spectacular and more, were all big hits, and you couldn't turn around without running into another chance to pick up Buckeye merchandise and memorabilia, or to donate more to the cause. I imagine Lisa and Chris will sleep well after yet another successful trip.

If you've never been, be sure to make it a point to try to go in the future, and check out their advertisements each week in Buckeye Sports Bulletin to stay up to date on the cruise's status and while Buckeyes will be joining a year from now.

A few things I should point out that I didn't before now:
-- I'd be remiss if I didn't discuss one of the absolute highlights of the Buckeye Cruise – Friday night's auction show in the Pacifica Theater.

Each former OSU player on board donated a once-in-a-lifetime package for fans to bid on, ranging from the chance to bring seven friends to dinner in Columbus with Archie Griffin to the opportunity to golf with Kurt Coleman at Muirfield Village in nearby Dublin.

There were so many more packages than that, I can't even begin to describe them all without forgetting one or more of the memorable experiences, though I can say the prize that went for the most money was the chance to accompany Kirk Herbstreit to the 2014 Heisman ceremony and Heisman dinner held two nights later. Two different people bid $40,000 apiece for that honor, with Herbstreit saying he'd have to get on the phone with Heisman Trust to make sure he could make that happen.

There were plenty of laughs to be had – especially when Shelley Meyer was involved. The coach's wife helped sell the initial auction item of the night – the chance to spend the Virginia Tech football weekend essentially embedded with the team before watching from Shelley's box in Ohio Stadium – and got up on stage to provide encouragement whenever the bidding started to slow.

In all, more than $500,000 was pledged during the auction and another $220,000 was given during the accompanying "Fund a Need" drive, which will allow the James to purchase a much-needed new piece of equipment that will help with clinical trials for new cancer drugs.

Surely, it was a night that won't be soon forgotten.

--OK, the most fun event, though, was likely Saturday night's Buckeye Price is Right show. Hosted by "Dom Barker," Columbus 10TV's Dom Tiberi, the Price is Right show moved quickly and gave away a ton of prizes, including a brand new car to one lucky fan as well as a showcase showdown package that topped $42,000. The sound effects and pricing games were right on, and the big wheel was a nice touch, too. Clad in an OSU jersey, Shelley Meyer even helped out on stage by helping showcase the items up for bids.

--I grew up on Lake Erie and spent most of my summers in the lake, but nothing could quite prepare me for the chance to snorkel in the Caribbean on our stop at Grand Cayman. Nothing could really prepare me for the taste of salt water that came with it, but that's neither here nor there. Checking out the wreck of the USS Kittiwake and a coral reef in the warm blue water might have been the highlight of the trip, even if I wasn't particularly a master of figuring out how to breathe through the darn thing.

--The most bizarre part of the trip might have been seeing not one but two KFCs and two Burger Kings we saw on Grand Cayman. What was really surprising, I guess, was the fact there was no McDonald's. Either way, it was a bit weird, and I have no regrets eating at a local place called Da Fish Shack that sat right on the water instead.

--While there's no doubt Shelley Meyer was the most popular Shelley on the trip, second place clearly went to Shelley Graf. The first-ever female drum major in the Big Ten, Graf – who became OSU's drum major in 1981 – brought her baton and twirled with the Alumni Band members who were on the trip, much to the delight of many of the fans on the boat. She's still got it.

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