Matt Smyke (left), Michelle Feeney (middle), Aroh Pandit (right) sell Christmas sweaters on the Oval Dec. 4. Credit: Ashley Kimmel | Assistant Arts & Life Editor

From a location that’s seen its fair share of protests, petitions and graphic Jumbotrons, it’s safe to say holiday cheer isn’t the first thing people think of when it comes to the Oval. 

Delivered in the form of an ugly holiday sweater fundraising event, student organization Ride for World Health brought its seasonal spirit to the Oval Wednesday in hopes of raising money for three nonprofit organizations and a bike ride across the country.

The group sold sweaters and vests, all purchased during Thanksgiving break by club members, Michelle Feeney, a fourth-year medical student and organization member, said. 

“When we all went to our hometowns, we did all our thrift shopping all over the Midwest, so they’ve come from a lot of different places,” Feeney said. 

Skyler Jackim (left); Emma Picht (right) buy ugly Christmas sweaters on the Oval Dec. 4. Credit: Ashley Kimmel | Assistant Arts & Life Editor

Ride for World Health was founded in 2006 by Ohio State medical students with the goal of educating the public about health care disparities around the world, advocating for a healthy lifestyle and raising money for other nonprofit organizations with similar missions, according to its website.

This year, the group’s chosen charities are Engage Nepal, an organization providing resources to underserved populations in Tsum Valley; Live Healthy Appalachia, an organization promoting healthy lifestyles in Southeast Ohio through community partnerships and educational programs; and Asian Health Initiative Free Clinic, a collaborative community project aiming to help maintain the health of the underserved Asian population in central Ohio, according to the website. 

“They’re doing some really awesome things, so we’re happy to fundraise them,” Feeney said. 

Each year, the organization rides 3,200 miles on bike from San Diego to Bethany Beach, Delaware. The group’s goal is to raise $1 per mile for each member, which will go to both the charities and trip’s expenses, Alex Zha, a fourth-year medical student and the club’s CEO, said. 

Zha said the group is trying to optimize the trip’s expenses to ensure a majority of the funds raised go to the charities.  

Throughout the trip, the group will host educational talks to raise awareness about global health issues at various locations, such as universities, libraries, community centers and grade schools, Zha said. 

“It’s just a really unique opportunity, I think, to get to see a side of the United States that a lot of us are kind of unaware or don’t really have the opportunity to explore. So I think that’s a big part for me,” Zha said. “And then being able to share what I’ve learned with communities along the way and provide education, that’s a really motivating factor as well.” 

There are currently 11 members, and Zha said the group has raised between $8,000 and $10,000.

Zha said the group is planning to raise money in the future by selling cooking classes donated by Local Matters, an organization that provides food education, advocacy and access to communities.  

Ride for World Health will also host a Global Health Day on campus at the end of January. Zha said the event will primarily be educational and include speakers from partner charities, free food and giveaways. 

Although the group is mostly comprised of medical students, Zha said being a medical student is not required to participate in the ride. He said the group is nearing a cut-off date for accepting new members, but the ride is an annual event, and students who are interested can email info@r4wh.org.