The Buckeyes lost one of their own Tuesday when baseball player Zach Farmer lost his battle with leukemia. Former Ohio State running back Raymont Harris is riding as part of the athletic department’s peloton for the fifth year and said this time means more.
“It’s so fresh I our minds with it just happening this week,” said Harris, now a director in OSU's office of development. “Just knowing how great of a kid Zach was. Fortunately I was able to meet him a few times. The smile that he would always have, knowing all the hardships that he was going through, but still smiling, still trying, still going out there, I think I can really use that as a motivation.
“Regardless of how tough doing something like this is I know it pales in comparison to not only what Zach went through but all the people that have to deal with this disease.”
Harris and the other 25 members of the Ohio State Athletic Department team will be wearing stickers on their helmet to honor Farmer showing his initials and his No. 11. Team captain Kim Heaton, the department's director of human resources, said the team knew they had to do something to recognize the pitcher and quickly put together the helmet decals.
“That day we all decided we needed to ride for Zach,” she said.
“For us as a department to lose one of our own it has been heartbreaking. For those that knew Zach and even for those that never had the opportunity to meet him, it definitely hits home for all of us. It gives us extra motivation to continue to do what we do and ride as far as we ride. We’ll definitely all have him in our thoughts and his family in our thoughts.”
The OSU team has so far raised about $45,000 for the event, all of which will be donated to cancer research at The Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital, Heaton said. That mark is already slightly more than what the athletics department team raised last year, and the deadline for fundraising is not until October.
Harris will be riding 100 miles as part of tomorrow’s seventh Pelotonia, the third time he has ridden that distance. The former running back said the ability to raise money for cancer research through a physical pursuit is a perfect marriage of passions for him, allowing for a more personal connection to the cause than simply writing a check.
“It’s important because I have been directly affected by it through my immediate family,” Harris said. “I’ve had some close friends, lost family members as well. My father has had a couple of bouts with cancer and like three of my uncles, my mother-in-law. Honestly if I really sat here and thought about it I could rattle off seven, eight or nine people who have directly been affected by it.”
Unfortunately Harris’ case is not a rare one given the pervasiveness of the disease. This Tuesday cancer took another victim with the passing of Farmer and gave the Ohio State staffers another reason to ride.
“I am sure his memory will be in all of our minds as we race on Saturday,” Harris said.