When speaking with Olivia Ruffner the insect that comes to mind is not the flea, but the ant. This engaging young woman hopes to save the world one flea market at a time. Like the ant that is capable of lifting 20 times its own body weight, this small but mighty 10-year-old has lifted spirits heavy with grief by raising $1,000 for brain cancer research. Olivia recently became the recipient of a special award on National Philanthropy Day. We sat down with this busy “bug,” an Eastwood Middle School student, basketball player, 4H member and Girl Scout to talk about her inspirations and hopes for the future.
What inspired you to raise money for brain cancer research?
My Uncle Mike Granville fought brain cancer and died. I was coming home from a baseball game with my grandpa and I told him I somehow wanted to help find a cure. He thought up an idea about having a table at the Perrysburg Flea Market.
What was the biggest challenge you had raising $1,000?
It was actually really fun. My whole family got involved. We passed out fliers and posted on Facebook that we needed items to sell at the flea market. We told people that 100% of the money would go to the University of Toledo [for the UT Cancer Biology and Biochemistry Fund]. The biggest challenge was finding a place for everything. People brought so much stuff we didn’t know where to put it!
When you are older and look back at this experience, what will you remember most?
I got to take a tour of the lab with Dr. [William] Maltese at UTMC and see brain cancer cells. They were so weird. I will also remember how people gave so much. People brought stuff to sell and people bought stuff for way more money than things were worth. We had some of the stuff stored in a trailer because we couldn’t fit it on the table. Somebody taped two dollars on the trailer and didn’t even take anything!
Will there be more fundraising in your future?
I have twin sisters, Emma and Elle. They are seven years old. We decided to use the gumball machine at our family’s diner [O-Deer Diner in Perrysburg] and give the money from it for UT's Cancer Research Fund for the month of August, the month my Uncle Mike died. We earned $81! I think we will do that again this year.
If you had a magic wand, how would you use it?
I would make my Uncle Mike reappear.
Do you have any big plans for the future?
I want to be a librarian because I love to read and spell. I just read the Hunger Games. I want to go to BGSU so I can be close to home, but later I want to go to Greenland.
Because Vikings once lived there!