COLUMBUS, Ohio - Regarded as a "razor thin" vote for a place among the Top 5 finalists, the semifinalists and finalists' selection for the Coach Wooden Citizen Cup was announced Wednesday and Erika Benford, a senior on the Ohio State rowing team, was named a semifinalist. The Dublin, Ohio, native just came up short of being selected to the final group.
Presented to a collegiate and professional athlete who "have made the greatest positive influence in the lives of others, the "Wooden Cup" is in its seventh year.
"... the difference between the semifinalists and the finalists was razor thin and is usually the result of the judges being given a little more distinguishing information about one candidate or another than it is about the quality of the person being nominated," Fred Northup, president of Athletes for a Better World, which oversees the "Wooden Cup," said.
Benford has continuously spearheaded several community-service initiatives for the Buckeye rowing program as Chair of Community Service Projects.
"The community service I participate in and organize already gives me the utmost satisfaction that I feel like getting an award for it is crazy," Benford said during the nomination process. "Our team is really the heart and force behind it all. Many of them are so eager and willing to volunteer for anything whenever I bring it up; it's phenomenal. This nomination has already been a huge privilege and such an honor."
Of note are the team's fundraising efforts for projects such as the American Cancer Society's Making Strides against Breast Cancer walk. In October 2009, the squad raised $7,300, while in 2010, the Buckeyes' campaign tallied $3,441. The monies raised this past October served as the third-highest total among Columbus participants.
Individually, Benford collected $4,200 in 2009 for the Making Strides against Breast Cancer campaign. For that, she was awarded the Society's Columbus Pacesetter honor, which is presented to a participant who "goes above and beyond for the cause. Volunteers must raise a minimum of $2,000 to earn the title."
Additionally, the $4,200 was the highest individual total raised in Columbus. In 2010, Benford helped contribute the city's fourth-best total of $1,700 to the cause.
Aside from the commitment to the American Cancer Society, Benford was visible organizing the rowing team's participation in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Light the Night walk and fundraiser. In 2008, Benford and the Buckeyes collected $2,500 before raising $1,200 in 2009. In October of 2010, the squad, encouraged by Benford, added $1,500 in its third year of participation.
The commitments do not stop there either. Benford is instrumental in organizing and directing the rowing team, including herself, to other causes, such as Habitat for Humanity, the 2nd & Seven Reading Foundation, Girl Scouts, Operation Buckeye and Nationwide Children's Hospital visits.