During her freshman year at The Ohio State University, Danielle Baiocchi’s grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.

“I wanted to do something. I had to do something,” Danielle says. “How can I make an impact? My dad was already involved in Pelotonia, and now with me going to Ohio State, The James and Pelotonia are right here—that’s what I can do.”

Danielle’s father is Robert Baiocchi, MD, PhD, a member of the Leukemia Research Program at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

Never one to dip her toe in the pool when she can dive in, Danielle, a marketing major in the Fisher College of Business, got involved in Pelotonia in a big way, interning at the Pelotonia office, signing up to be a virtual rider for the 2016 ride and becoming a member of the Team Buckeye Student Riders, a student group that organizes, recruits and helps hundreds of Buckeyes ride and fundraise.

“Our biggest goal is to engage the student body, to make connections within the community and make Pelotonia seem more relatable and attainable for students,” she says of the Team Buckeye Student Riders.

Pelotonia 2016 was a bit of a blur for Danielle, who, as an intern, helped organize and run the event.

“It was kind of crazy,” she recalls. “There was all this buildup and excitement as we got closer and closer, and all the interns, we really wanted to do our jobs correctly and make it a great event for the riders. There would be these moments where you were rushing around doing something, and then a minute later, you’d end up having a great conversation with someone who was telling you how excited they were to be riding.”

Danielle and a few of her friends decided they need to get in on the excitement, and they signed up to ride in Pelotonia 2017. Her grandmother, Nancy Williams, who is still in treatment at The James, attended Pelotonia’s opening ceremonies with Danielle, Rob and other members of the family.

“That was the first time she experienced Pelotonia and she loved it and was so excited,” Danielle says. “She gained such an appreciation for the event and everyone who was there, and we all felt so connected to it.”

The next day, Danielle—a bit of a cycling novice—rode in the event for the first time. And yes, it was tough.

“What kept me going was knowing that whatever I was going through, it was nothing compared to what my grandmother was going through,” she says. “I rode for her.”

While Danielle continues to be inspired by and ride for her grandmother, she’s now inspiring others to ride as the leader of the Team Buckeye Student Riders.

In the classroom, Danielle is pursuing a minor in public health and thinking about a career that will combine business and marketing with healthy living. “I’m interested in helping people choose how to live healthy lives and the barriers they face to nutritious food and exercise, and how to advocate for a healthy lifestyle.”

Then again, running a large non-profit organization such a Pelotonia isn’t out of the question.

“My heart has been shaped by working as an intern at Pelotonia,” Danielle says. “Being part of their office environment and seeing Doug (Ullman, Pelotonia’s president and CEO) lead the team and see him approach every circumstance with such a heart of gratitude and be such an impactful leader inspires me so much.”

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