OU Professor to Run in Honor of Haden DeRoberts in NYC Marathon

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On Sunday, December 4, 2016, Haden DeRoberts passed away at the age of 24 after fighting acute myeloid leukemia for five years. Beloved by all that knew him, DeRoberts was kinetic in his actions, enthusiastic in his attitude towards life, and devoted to the people and music that he loved.

DeRoberts was one of Josh Antonuccio’s advisees in Ohio University’s School of Media Arts and Studies when DeRoberts first came to Athens in 2011 — the same year he would receive his cancer diagnosis.

Over the course of the five years that DeRoberts would study under Antonuccio in various music industry classes, the two would get to know each other better; Antonuccio appreciating DeRoberts’ tireless commitment to receive his Specialized Studies degree in event planning and nonprofit management regardless of his mounting health concerns. DeRoberts received his degree in hospice only two days before he passed away.

“Haden had so much enthusiasm about everything he became involved in – he loved working with people and he loved music, and he always found ways to combine those two things,” said Antonuccio, who pointed out that DeRoberts was the progenitor of Folk Fest, a music festival that originated on DeRoberts’ back porch in his home in Columbus and grew to eventually attract Dave Simonett of Trampled By Turtles for its’ last year. The festival also served as a way for people to get registered as bone marrow donors – bone marrow transplants are a huge part of how leukemia and lymphoma are treated. In 2015, proceeds of the event went to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as well as local non-profit Adyn’s Dream.

DeRoberts was also instrumental in Hillel at Ohio University’s Got Swabbed? campaign, which resulted in over 9,000 people getting swabbed for potential bone marrow transplants; 30 life-saving matches were identified because of the campaign.

“He was just so passionate about everything that he would do, and I think that resonated with a lot of people. He had such exuberance for life – even when I visited him in hospice he did not lose that sense of exuberance – and that really stuck with me,” said Antonuccio. “It was really inspiring, the way that he shaped the narrative of his disease as to benefit others. Instead of just thinking of his personal bone marrow transplant as something that saved his life, he became an advocate for people who needed bone marrow transplants. He was always trying to fight for what was good – which was what I admired about him.”

Last year, Antonuccio and six of his family members decided to form the Old Tonuccis, (the name a riff on the fact that the those taking part in the event have either the last name “Antonuccio” or “Old,”) a fundraising group which will run in the New York City Marathon on November 5, hoping to raise $25,000 in the name of Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital’s for cancer treatment research. Each member of the team has experienced cancer in some personal way. Antonuccio said that it is “in the spirit of Haden” that he decided to run, aiming to raise $7,500 for leukemia research in his name.

DeRobert’s favorite band were indie rock greats My Morning Jacket – an outfit that Antonuccio has had personal familiarity with for some time. After DeRoberts’ passing, Antonuccio reached out to the band, who signed vinyl copies of their albums Evil UrgesZ, and The Waterfall for the project. Those who donate at least $75 will be entered to win packages of all three of those signed albums.

Members of My Morning Jacket were very supportive of donating signed vinyl copies of three of their albums to Antonuccio's fundraising endeavor. (Submitted)
Members of My Morning Jacket were very supportive of donating signed vinyl copies of three of their albums to Antonuccio’s fundraising endeavor. (Submitted)

“One of the things that really always impressed me about Haden is the fact that he did not give up working on his degree even as he was dying. Everyone would have understood if he had decided to take that last year off – but he didn’t. He worked all the way to the end,” said Antonuccio. “I really want to carry on in that same spirit – to persevere and do what is right for others.”

You can donate to the campaign through this link.

A diagram depicting the members of The Old Tonuccis. (Submitted)
A diagram depicting the members of The Old Tonuccis. (Submitted)