Ohio State Recognizes Cancer 'Champions" at Annual Step Up for Stefanie Run/Walk

April 13, 2016
Ashlee Hunt right with her husband Nathan a 2016 Champion Award recipient

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Four individuals who have demonstrated unmatched support for patients during their cancer treatment and recovery will receive the Champions Award as part of the Step Up for Stefanie’s Champions event, an honor bestowed annually by The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

The award program coincides with the inaugural Step Up for Stefanie’s Champions run/walk, a family-friendly community event that will take place at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 23, 2016. The event includes four-mile and one-mile routes that begin and conclude at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center, located at 1145 Olentangy River Rd.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research at the OSUCCC – James. Individual and team registration is available and can be made at spielmanfund.com. The fund has generated more than $17.5 million to support breast cancer patients and research at The OSUCCC – James.

Champion Award Criteria, Nomination Process

Established in 2000 by former OSUCCC – James patient Stefanie Spielman and her husband, Chris Spielman, the Champions award honors those whose dedication and strength were powerful influences in the lives of cancer survivors. The first “Champion” award was given by Stefanie to Chris, who put his professional football career on hold to care for her throughout her experience with breast cancer.

Champions can be nominated by any cancer survivor, regardless of whether they received treatment at the OSUCCC – James. Honorees are selected by a national award committee made up of business/community leaders, patients and faculty at the OSUCCC – James.

2016 Honorees

This year’s honorees include:

Brett Jump, nominated by her friend, Heather Appel (Granville, Ohio and Worthington, Ohio)

Brett Jump and Heather Appel cropped

Heather Appel says meeting her champion, Brett Jump, was sort of “divine intervention” – Heather had been diagnosed with breast cancer 2½ years earlier after a childhood friend learned she had breast cancer. When talking about her diagnosis, a colleague suggested Heather call his wife (Brett), who was a 4½ year survivor. She quickly realized that Brett’s hope was contagious and she couldn’t help but feel like she would make it through the fight. Brett introduced Heather to many women facing the same fight, calming her fears and giving her hope.

Heather says Brett has taught her to live with purpose, live for the moment, appreciate what you have and love deeply -- both others and herself. She has served as a backbone of strength for Heather along with countless other women, tirelessly encouraging and supporting the people she meets and raising money for cancer research through Pelotonia Team Granville. Brett’s work with Pelotonia inspired Heather and her husband to form their own peloton – Team Worthington – for the 2016 ride. Together, Heather and Brett created a patient support group via Facebook (Pink Degrees) that started with just seven women and has grown to more than 34. The group supports each other virtually but also gets together in person once a month.

Nathan Hunt, nominated by his wife, Ashlee Hunt (Lewis Center)

Ashlee and Nathan Hunt cropped

Ashlee says Nathan, age 30, gives her the strength and courage to fight breast cancer at the young age of 28. She credits his deep love and support as the reason she has beat breast cancer twice before the age of 30. “He always encourages me, comforts me, and tells me I am beautiful, even when bald. He fights for me and makes me smile. He is loving and so patient – you can hear it in his voice.” Ashlee and Nathan had just become engaged and moved into their first home when she received a “heartbreaking” diagnosis of stage 2A breast cancer -- just one day after she turned 24. Their lives shifted from planning a wedding to battling cancer in an instant. It became their fight. Ashlee notes how he did things large and small to support her – everything from supporting her through invasive fertility treatments to preserve her eggs prior to cancer treatment to working long days to make up for lost time at medical appointments and maintaining home life while supporting her emotionally and mentally. He remained her anchor when she had a recurrence in May 2015. He danced with her (or for her if she was too sick) to make her smile prior to treatment and refused to let her quit when she felt too weak to go on. He does not retreat from fear and inspires her to have courage. For this and all his sacrifices, he is Ashlee’s champion and inspiration.

Matthew Schaeg, nominated by his sister, Brandi Hann (Ashland, Ohio and Gahanna, Ohio)

Brandi Hann and Matthew Schaeg cropped

At age 39, Brandi was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer that would eliminate her ability to have children and require a total of 12 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation to give her the best chance of eradicating the disease. While in the middle of her radiation treatment at the OSUCCC – James, her father was diagnosed with lung cancer. Frustrated that she was not in a place to support her father in his cancer journey, her brother, Matthew, immediately stepped up and moved back to Ashland, Ohio, to care for their father while also serving as a support system for their mother and Brandi. He put his life on hold and was an invaluable source of comfort for Brandi knowing her father was cared for and allowing her to focus on her own fight and ultimate victory against cervical cancer. As she finished treatment in May 2012, her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 HER-2+ breast cancer. Brandi and her brother rallied together to face the next cancer battle, supporting both their father – who ultimately died from complications of pneumonia – and their mother, who was in treatment in Columbus at least once a week for breast cancer. Her brother became the sole caregiver and homemaker while administering 25 medications a day and shuttling their mother on the hour-long drive from Ashland, Ohio, to Columbus, Ohio, for treatment and appointments sometimes twice a week for 18 months until she ultimately passed. He did all of this while continuing to work a full time job. Brandi says he was never late for an appointment and not once did he complain about his loss of freedom: He was selfless, courageous and humble. Taking care of family was the priority. He provided strength for their mother when she was lonely, in pain and afraid of death. Matthew kept her safe and calm until the end.

Victoria “Tori” Crooks, nominated by her father, Dr. K.A. Crooks (Galveston, Texas)

Dr Crooks and Tori cropped

When Professor K.A. Crooks received his cancer diagnosis in 2010, the Ohio State University alum and decorated military veteran was told: “It’s aggressive, it’s ugly and you better be moving quickly on this.” With the time clock set, his family took rapid steps to move from Pennsylvania to Texas to start his treatment. His younger daughter, Tori – who was just 15 at the time and finally settled into a new “normal” after relocating across three states during her teen years – was once again uprooted and moved to Texas for her dad to pursue cancer treatment. Her sister was making a transition to Ohio State to study neuroscience and German. Tori quickly became Prof. Crooks' champion, recalling that Tori did not whine, worry or waste time. She simply asked: “Where do we get started?” Tori, as her dad put it, “did the heavy lifting and was everywhere” – packing, helping the movers, cleaning their existing house, organizing … she even helped double check her dad's college grading. She didn’t get the customary time to say goodbye to her friends: her focus was on family members and their overall well-being. Her new school did not have rugby, a sport at which she excelled, and she had to make up five classes because the curricula were so different between Pennsylvania and Texas. While her mother dug in to a new job to support their family, Tori became her father’s primary caregiver while he recovered from radical surgery, tending to wound cleaning and other hygienic issues that required constant attention. Tori managed it all with steadfast determination and compassion, sacrificing her own needs and wishes to care for her family. She followed up by volunteering for cancer research fundraising. The physical and emotional toll of her early-life burden created setbacks, but she persevered and is studying business and aviation at her university in Texas and local airports.

Step Up for Stefanie’s Champions is presented by Panera Bread/Covelli Enterprises with additional support from L Brands Foundation, The OSUCCC – James, Central Ohio Primary Care Physicians, Bartha, Safelite AutoGlass, Abigail and Leslie Wexner, Holowicki Enterprises/McDonald’s, and BeecherHill.

About the OSUCCC – James

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of only 45 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only four centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs. As the cancer program’s 306-bed adult patient-care component, The James is one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report and has achieved Magnet designation, the highest honor an organization can receive for quality patient care and professional nursing practice. At 21 floors with more than 1.1 million square feet, The James is a transformational facility that fosters collaboration and integration of cancer research and clinical cancer care.


Media Contact: Amanda J. Harper
Director, Media Relations, OSUCCC – James
614-685-5420 (direct)
614-293-3737 (media main)

Contact Media Staff

Amanda Harper

Director of Media Relations

614-685-5420 (direct)

614-293-3737 (main)


Media staff are available by calling 614-293-3737 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.


If after hours, please call 614-293-8000 (ask the operator to page the hospital administrative manager).