Buckeye Wellness Innovator Funding Awards

The Ohio State University Chief Wellness Officer, Bernadette Melnyk, is pleased to provide support to  Buckeye Wellness Innovators, who are in a unique position to positively influence the wellness culture and environment of their department or unit. Planning health and wellness activities is part of their role. Grant funding up to $500 is available each year to Buckeye Wellness Innovators who develop new programs, encourage their colleagues to live healthy lifestyles and plan activities for their departments.

2019 Recipients

Buckeye Wellness awarded $11,791 to 30 Buckeye Wellness Innovator teams whose projects and activities aimed to increase physical activity, enhance healthy eating and improve the emotional health of Ohio State faculty and staff in their units and departments. Recipients were recognized at the annual State of Health and Wellness Address in Buckeye Nation on August 20, 2020.


Healthy Eating


Recipient(s): Susie O’Brien, Helena Thigpen, Julie Vargo and Angie Theaker 

Making Advancement the healthiest unit at The Ohio State University – Advancement used the funds to host “Fruity Friday,” a staff bonding event that uses fruits instead of high calorie snacks to bring people together. They also provided two healthy cooking demonstrations and four Lunch and Learns to educate their staff on the Nine Dimensions of Wellness.  

Center for Human Resource Research (CHRR) 

Recipient(s): Laura Rusnak and Justin Vance 

Feature Healthy Recipe – Laura and Justin encouraged their coworkers to make healthy dietary choices by introducing them to flavorful healthy recipes every month for a year. They prepared a healthy meal or snack each month and shared it with their coworkers along with the recipe and nutrition facts.  

Divisions of Hematology and Medical Oncology 

Recipient(s): Janet Dettore 

Pop-In – Janet created this project to encourage staff to take breaks during the day and refuel themselves with a healthy snack. To make it accessible to all of her faculty and staff, she “popped-in” to offices with fresh air popped popcorn and provided healthy toppings like turmeric, cinnamon and chili powder. While popping in, she provided recipes and educated staff on the nutritional value of this healthy alternative. The project allowed staff to have a brief break to socialize while enjoying a healthy alternative to a traditionally unhealthy snack.  

Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO)/Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) 

Recipient(s): Kylie Ponn, Todd Thomas, Janette Ashcraft 

H2O Happy Hour – H2O Happy Hour at Mount Hall brought employees of OCIO, ODEE and Enterprise Security together to promote the benefits of drinking infused waters and the importance of hydration. At the event, staff sampled a variety of fruit and herb infused waters, socialized and learned more about the benefits, such as weight/sugar control, immunity support and anti-inflammation that these drinks can provide! 

Ohio State Wexner Medical Center 9 East Rhodes 

Recipient(s): Josie Martina, Cherri McHolan, Dan Townsend 

H2O Happy Hour – These BWIs organized “happy hours” in their breakroom to make staff more aware of the drink choices they were making. They provided pre-made flavored waters, recipes for the infusions and prizes for guessing the sugar contents of different drinks! 

Powell Outpatient Rehabilitation  

Recipient(s): Sara Rismiller 

Healthy Snacks at Work – Sara used funds to provide healthier snack options for her staff after noticing many of her coworkers resorted to purchasing unhealthy vending machine options when they wanted a snack. To increase access to healthier snack options, she stocked her break room with alternatives such as fruits and vegetables, low sugar nutrition bars and crackers, cheese and yogurt every two weeks for a year.  

Residence Life 

Recipient(s): Janet Steinbacher 

Let them Drink Water! – Janet created this initiative to encourage staff to make healthier drinking choices. Flavored waters with fruit and vegetables were provided to staff during meetings to allow them to try a drink that is low in sugar, provides other health benefits and is a great alternative to drinks high in sugar and calories. 

Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center (SSCBC) 

Recipient(s): Ann Hess, Lucy Moore, Leslie Polk 

Healthy Tailgating Lunch and Learn – These BWIs hosted a Lunch and Learn on swapping out typical tailgating foods for healthier and tastier alternatives for the employees of the SSCBC. During the Lunch and Learn, they supplied several Ohio State Health Coach-approved tailgating foods and provided recipes so their coworkers could make these dishes at home with their families. 


Physical Activity

Aerospace Studies (AFROTC)

Recipient(s): Jamie Elles and Hunter Barnhill 

AFROTC Cadet and Cadre Quality of Life Initiative – The department used the funds to incorporate yoga and active recovery techniques into physical training of Air Force ROTC cadets and cadre members. They incorporated these techniques to improve athletic performance, injury protection, improved respiration and increased muscle control among Air Force ROTC cadets and cadre members.

Center on Education and Training for Employment 

Recipient(s): Tricia Hughes-Fitzgerald 

Walk it WHILE You Talk It – Tricia used the funds to purchase a treadmill desk to make fitness equipment more accessible in her office and encourages staff to move more throughout the work day.  

College of Arts and Sciences Technology Services 

Recipient(s): Jay Smith, Barbara Belair and Chris Wallace 

Lunchtime Yoga Kick-Off – Jay wanted to help his coworkers break up their sedentary days by providing yoga classes for the IT department. He hosted a promotional event to kick off the series and provided his team with yoga mats and exercise bands to use during the lunchtime sessions.  

Engineering Research Operations & College of Engineering 

Recipient(s): Heather Spisak, Leigh Zircher, Laura Alavarez 

Desk Bike for the Busy Professional – The BWIs saw staff struggling to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines, so they brought exercise equipment to the office! They purchased two desk bikes that staff could sign out to use while at work and allowed staff to get more active during the workday.  

Nisonger Center 

Recipient(s): Ann Robinson, Tamara Hager, Shannon Prince 

Indoor Cycling Challenge - Meet you in Miami! – In partnership with YP4H, the BWIs at the Nisonger Center created a team cycling challenge using the Virgin Pulse platform to encourage their staff to be more active during the winter months. They challenged 20 staff members to pedal a combined 2,320 miles to sunny Miami Beach from January to March using under-desk pedal bikes. To participate, staff joined a team on YP4H and logged the number of miles cycled per day. They celebrated the miles pedaled and success of the challenge with a tropical smoothie party.  

Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Hospital Medicine 

Recipient(s): Christina Lehman, Marisha Goldsmith, Ahmed Mostafavifar, Darlene Carpenter, Sloane Fair, Shannon Cole, Rashmi Ganith 

Muscles with Dr. Mo – To give their team a break from working long hours in primarily sedentary roles, the division hosts “Muscles with Dr. Mo,” twice a month. This is a 10-minute strength training workout for faculty and staff no matter their fitness level. The BWIs of the division used grant funds to provide a wider variety of equipment and expand the number of exercises offered. Now, they can incorporate more strength training exercises that use yoga balls, resistance bands, yoga mats, medicine balls and dumbbells. 


Recipient(s): Elizabeth Sheridan and Jessica Wiseman 

Orthopedics Walking Challenge – Elizabeth and Jessica noticed their clinical and administrative personnel spend long hours sitting during the workday because of computer-based duties, meetings and consultations. To counteract the effects of this sedentary work environment, they created a targeted group walking challenge for their department. They created teams for each division within Orthopedics who then worked together to walk the most steps in a four week period. The top two teams with the highest average number of steps were awarded prizes.

Planning and Real Estate (PARE) 

Recipient(s): Marie Tullidge and Andrew Neil 

Steps to better health! – The BWIs at PARE coordinated a new year's resolution roll out, including office space for healthy eating, a healthy eating on-the-go presentation and providing in-house biometric screenings. Andrew and Marie shared themed health updates with their group, such as Pelotonia, Heart Month and mindfulness practices. Using BWI grant funds, they transformed their office space by providing weights, resistance bands, fitness balls, yoga mats and under-desk ellipticals to help their staff engage in physical activity while at the office.

Residence Life 

Recipient(s): Janet Steinbacher, Annie Bingman, Qiana Smith  

Department Meeting Wellness Boxes – To improve focus and support kinesthetic learning during staff meetings, these BWIs provided sensory boxes and resistance bands to their staff. They also hosted stretch breaks and encouraged staff to stand during meetings to improve physical activity and overall wellness. 

Surgical Intensive Care Unit – 4 Doan 

Recipient(s): Jennifer Henkin and Cheryl Newton 

First Annual SICU Walkathon – Jennifer and Cheryl planned and organized the First Annual SICU Walkathon in hopes of promoting physical activity and team building among their staff members. Participants walked on the track at Fred Beekman Park and used activity monitors to track their steps. The team and individual participant with the highest number of steps at the end received a trophy and bragging rights! Participants had the opportunity to ask for donations to meet certain step goals, which were given to the STAR House. They used funds for the park reservation, t-shirts, trophy and walkathon advertisement. 


Mental and Emotional Well-being 


College of Pharmacy  

Recipient(s): Emily Keeler, Jim McAuley, Joy Scott, Liz Trolli, Maggie Merry 

Addressing Mental Health in the College of Pharmacy – The BWIs used these funds to purchase notecards so they could write handwritten, personalized notes of gratitude or share appreciation. They celebrated accomplishments by giving notes to 5-10 faculty and staff members per week to show that their college cares about them and their well-being.  

Martha Morehouse Tower 

Recipient(s): Jonathan Kelley 

Martha Morehouse Tower Wellness Room – Jonathan created a wellness room that staff could use to engage in stress reducing activities like mediation, prayer, stretching, yoga, coloring, reading and journaling. The room provides a space that allows staff to take a moment to decompress and relax during a stressful workday. Additionally, the room provided a place to promote additional wellness activities and programs for staff to use. 


Social Wellness

Department of Family Medicine  

Recipient(s): Eunice Oppenheim-Knudsen  

Alleviating Burnout in Physicians – Eunice organized small social gatherings with snacks and yoga classes. By planning these small meetings, physicians had the opportunity to decrease feelings of isolation and had a space to discuss issues central to the physician experience. Organizing yoga classes provided physicians an opportunity to be active during the work day and improve their physical wellness. 

Internal Medicine/Cardiology OAs 

Recipient(s): Traci Auerbach 

Watercolors & Water Flavors – Traci hosted a team bonding activity where her colleagues sampled various fruit infused water beverages while participating in a watercolor painting course. She provided recipe cards and discussed strategies for reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. It provided an opportunity for staff to distress and socialize while enjoying a healthy beverage.  

James Molecular Lab and Department of Pathology 

Recipient(s): Rachel Jewell, Joyce Whitson, Linda McCart 

Polaris Amazing Race to Wellness – BWIs brought together all of the departments at the Ohio State Polaris Innovation Centre through the Polaris Amazing Race to Wellness. This exciting competition sent teams on an adventure around the building to complete challenges based on the Nine Dimensions of Wellness. Participants won prizes, ate healthy snacks and bonded with their colleagues.  

Office of Human Resources (OHR) 

Recipient(s): Amy Logar, Megan Daniel, Christina Herrera, Jill Langhals, Lyndsie Otto, Kayla Shawver 

Fun Fridays and OHR Wellness Cart – The BWIs at OHR used funds to launch two main programs: "Fun Fridays" and a quarterly wellness cart. Fun Fridays took place in June during National Employee Wellness Month and offered everyone an opportunity to get away from their desks to enjoy healthy snacks, infused waters, coloring and other fun, creative activities. The quarterly wellness cart allowed staff to stay at their work station while healthy snacks were delivered in person. 




Martha Morehouse Outpatient Rehabilitation  

Recipient(s): Douglas Eck 

Sleep Well to Live Well – To help his staff members improve their sleep hygiene, Doug created a three-step program focused on educating staff on the benefits of getting adequate sleep and providing tailored solutions on how each participant could overcome their barriers to a good night’s sleep. After participants completed a free online education series on healthy sleep habits, participants were given an electronic sleep-tracking device to gather information on their sleep habits and environment. Following this tracking period, participants received a sleep consultation with personalized coaching on techniques to improve sleep habits.  

College of Medicine Administration 

Recipient(s): Melissa Bruner, Michelle McMahon and Deborah Pond 

College of Medicine Admin Buckeye Wellness – These BWIs aimed to positively impact the wellness culture at the College of Medicine by hosting monthly yoga classes and providing fresh, healthy snacks for their department. They offered healthy snacks and beverages during the yoga classes as an extra incentive to attend!  

College of Veterinary Medicine 

Recipient(s): Ashley Sens, Kristi Pyke, Gail Luster 

Summer of Wellness – To keep faculty and staff active and engaged throughout the summer, the BWIs organized a 90-day summer wellness program. The program included “Snack Switch” every Friday where faculty and staff could switch out their unhealthy snack or breakfast for a healthy snack. It also included a competitive step challenge. Throughout the challenge, they organized group walks and provided tips for stretching and using exercise bands. At the end of the program, they held a ceremony to celebrate participants, distribute medals and “Be the Model” t-shirts based on their engagement. 

Lima Campus Advising/HR/Student Life 

Recipient(s): Sean Boley, Melissa Coldiron, Karen Meyer, Wendy Hendrick, Amy Livchak 

Operation L.I.M.A. (Launching an Impact on a Multitude of Associates) – The Lima BWIs used funds to reinvigorate their campus wellness programming. To launch the reignited program, they held a kick-off event and raffled off wellness prizes to faculty and staff. In September, they hosted weekly walks around campus and through the nearby nature trails during their common hour. On World Kindness Day, they strolled the campus with a wellness cart and provided every faculty and staff member with afternoon pick-me-ups, such as waters, healthy snacks and handouts of upcoming wellness programs. During National Nutrition Month, they hosted a Lunch and Learn with nutritionists who gave advice on healthy portion sizes and snacking habits using the snacks and beverages provided.  

Revenue Cycle Quality Assurance & Training  

Recipient(s): Emily Caudill, Kathy Herrick, Barbara Mehne, Melissa Hickman, Jessica Drusbacky, Megan Southern 

Zoo Professional Development Day – These BWIs organized a trip to the Columbus Zoo for their coworkers to provide a physically engaging and emotionally recharging experience that fosters team cohesion and self-care. In addition to spending the workday being physically active by walking around the zoo, the team organized a guided group meditation in the aquarium.  

Ohio State East Hospital Medical Staff Office, Administration 

Recipient(s): Nicole Pedaline and Lou Flocken 

Fall into Wellness Fair – These BWIs used funds to enhance participation at the annual East Hospital Wellness Fair. The fair brings together a wide variety of wellness vendors from across the medical center and university to educate staff on services and programs available to help them lead a healthier lifestyle. 

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