Faculty Pageant Raises Money For Childhood Cancer Treatment

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Baker Ballroom buzzed with hundreds of excited students on Wednesday night as they waited to see their professors sing, juggle, and even dance “the Bernie.”

Professors and teachers assistants from across colleges competed against each other in the Ava Nichols Faculty Pageant.

The event was put on by Ohio University's service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega-Delta Gamma to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, an organization that primarily treats children with cancer at no cost to families.

Around 500 students attended the event, which raised over $2,000 for the Memphis-based hospital.

Ava Nichols, of Waterford, Ohio, who the event was named after, was the guest of honor.

Diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor in March of 2010, the six-year-old girl receives treatment at St. Jude.

Traci Nichols, Ava's mother, performed Bomshel’s “Fight Like a Girl” for her daughter at the beginning of the pageant, and her performance garnered a standing ovation and tears from many audience members.

“It’s just such an important cause. This little girl is probably one of the strongest people I will meet in my entire life and she is fighting something that no one should ever have to go through,” pageant emcee and Alpha Phi Omega member Courtney Cohen said.

This is the second year in a row Alpha Phi Omega has put on the faculty pageant to raise money for St. Jude.

Alpha Phi Omega member and co-pageant emcee Emily Pollock said that when it came to choosing an organization, St. Jude’s was an easy choice because of the financial burden it lifts from families facing childhood cancer.

“The bills still come, whether or not you’re there,” she said. “I think if there’s some way that the hospital can help you, that just gives you some hope—that even if it ends bad, someone is looking out for you.”

The pageant also provided a way for students to see some of their professors in a different light.

“It’s not necessarily always about the money,” Eric Horton, pagent co-organizer said. “It’s also seeing the faculty outside of the realm of teaching in the classroom. You learn a lot more about the faculty.”

As the contestants took the stage, students in the audience cheered as they watched their professors perform talents ranging  from juggling potatoes to yelling animal calls.

Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi had the audience join him while he performed a dance move called “the Bernie.”

One of the highlights of the evening came when Dr. Eleanor Miller of the Nursing Department played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” after giving a brief inspirational speech.

"Have fun and chase your dreams because that's what life is about," Miller said.

The winner was Dr. Roger Cooper of Media Arts and Studies, who played to pageant stereotypes by pretending to cry, before giving more heartfelt words to the audience.

“Ava is such an inspiration, she will continue to inspire us for a long, long time,” Cooper said.

Ava’s mother looked out at the crowd at the end of the night, after the emcees had given her daughter a crown and some flowers.

"I'm shocked at how many people are here, and it means the world to me,” Nichols said. “It's a wonderful cause and it's the only way we're going to stop cancer."