Emergency Relief Fund Helps Students When the Unthinkable Happens

When her husband lost his battle with COVID-19, Ottie Hosler sought help from the Emergency Relief Fund. Now, she’s continuing her education with plans to become a registered nurse.


When her younger sisters fell down, Ottie Hosler was there to mend skinned knees and offer a helping hand. From an early age, she knew she wanted to care for people, but more than that, she wanted to be the calming force during an emergency. She wanted to know what to do — how, why and when.  

At 16, she helped save her baby sister. Hosler recalls the pivotal moment when the toddler ran through a camp fire’s hot coals. At a state park in a remote area of Tennessee, help wasn’t nearby and the family, who was gathered for a reunion, panicked.

“I remember it vividly,” Hosler explained. “Everyone was screaming. No one knew what to do. And that was the scariest thing to me — not knowing how to take care of someone or what to do in a situation like that. It’s one of the big reasons why I wanted to become a nurse.”

Her sister was burned so badly she was admitted to a Shriners Hospital for burn care.

While the little girl healed, Hosler would learn that sometimes the answers aren’t always textbook.

“You can do everything right, and still lose someone you love, someone you’ve fought for,” she said. “There’s a right time to push, and a right time to let go.”

Planning for a future, together

Hosler didn’t attend college right away. When she graduated from high school, she was still finding her way.

“I didn’t go to college as soon as I finished high school,” she said. “I felt like I didn’t know how to learn. I didn’t know if I was smart enough to do it.”

But a move to Ohio provided her with a fresh start and connected her with a man who would provide the encouragement she needed to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.

At Kent State University at Stark, Hosler also found the support, including low faculty-to-student class ratios, that she really needed to excel. Her professors knew her by name and that’s just what she would need when the unthinkable happened.

Hosler’s life with her husband, Chip, encompassed about a decade. They laughed together. enjoyed spending time with their pets at their Navarre home and shared special moments with Chip’s children and grandchildren.

“I never regret the decision — even with everything that happened,” said Hosler. “We were together a third of my life. It is very different being ‘Ottie and Chip’ to going back to being ‘just Ottie’ again and trying to figure out who I am.

“You mind goes to plans about us and our future to, ‘Oh my God, what do I do now.’ ”

Life left to live

Hosler holds tight to a photo of her husband cuddled on the couch with granddaughter, Davina. Taken the summer before he got sick, she likes to remember Chip in that way.

“He was fiercely loving, supportive and yet a private person, too,” Hosler said. “But he could be very stoic at times.”

His ability to endure hardship without complaining meant Hosler didn’t quite realize how sick her husband had gotten in March. The couple didn’t suspect COVID-19. In fact, Chip had recently taken his wife to purchase her medical scrubs, needed for the next step in her nursing education at Kent State Stark: critical care.

But soon, Chip’s cough got severe, and he was struggling to move without becoming winded. He stopped eating and started to lose pigmentation in his skin; Hosler knew these were all signs her husband needed medical intervention.

“I need you to consider going to the doctor,” she told him. When he asked her to drive him there, she knew the situation was serious. “Chip always drove.”

When they arrived at the hospital, tests revealed Chip was positive for COVID; his oxygen levels had dropped to the low 80s. Over the course of the next few days and weeks, his health continued to decline. Hosler said her husband made the decision to be placed on a ventilator, hopeful the outcome would be positive, but he also made plans.

“Before they intubated him, he wanted to talk to me about everything — the order he wanted me to call people in. ‘I want you to call your mom. Call my sister, Penny, and call Mason’,” Hosler said. “He wanted a good outcome. ‘If I can still have more time with you and the kids and the grandkids, I am willing to try.’ ”

Thanks to her nursing education, Hosler said she felt fortunate to understand all the ins and outs of what would happen next, like proning and how it might help her husband. She could answer concerned family’s questions and be confident in their chosen treatment.

“Chip told me he hoped that no matter what happened, I would finish my nursing degree,” Hosler said, “that I’d go on with our plans and that I just wouldn’t give up.”

She still tried to keep up with her studies throughout the time Chip was hospitalized. Hosler relied on the supportive team she had developed during her clinicals, as well as Kent State Stark professors Chrissy Kauth and Lyndy Beckley.

“They were there for me, providing constant help,” she said. “I knew if I needed anything, they wouldn’t hesitate.”

And just when it seemed Chip might get better, his health took a turn. Out-of-town family members were called in to say their goodbyes.

Chip was removed from the ventilator on April 9 and was gone within 10 minutes.

He was 56 years old.

“My husband was a young guy,” Hosler said. “He had a lot of life left to live. We had a lot of life left to live together.”

Showing the light

Today, Hosler is keeping her promise to her husband: she’s pursuing her education to earn a  Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Kauth encouraged her to apply for the Emergency Relief Fund, which has enabled her to continue her studies.

The fund, established during the COVID-19 pandemic, provides aid to students during a true emergency — right when tragedy strikes. Some Kent State Stark students have battled cancer, survived domestic violence and even a house fire that destroyed all their possessions. Yet another has juggled schoolwork while caring for a child born with birth defects.

“Professor Kauth told me all I needed to do was apply,” Hosler said. “Not only did I lose my husband, but I lost my home, I lost my dog, but I did gain a new sense of community… that’s what the field of nursing gives you. My family at Kent State Stark, my nursing class, my colleagues, they are like one big family. Giving up would have been easier, but when you have people who lift you up constantly, you can start rebuilding and be OK.”

Set to graduate in spring 2023, Hosler dedicates her accomplishments to all who have helped her along the way and providing hope to others going through tough times.

“I want people to know that I really needed that light they provide through everyday kindnesses, like the Emergency Relief Fund,” she said. “It meant the world to me to know that people care and there is hope out there. It doesn’t take a lot to show the light when someone is in a really dark place. When you are struggling, any little bit of help and reassurance can lift you up from the depths. It really can.”

As all good nurses know, it’s about being there to provide a helping hand at just the right time. And this Giving Tuesday, donors, too, have the power to extend aid so it’s within reach and set to change a life.

Provide a light for students, just like Ottie Hosler. When you give to the Emergency Relief Fund this Giving Tuesday, you give hope. And thanks to premier sponsor, Consumers National Bank, all gifts to the Emergency Relief Fund will be matched up to $5,000.

POSTED: Monday, October 31, 2022 10:46 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 07:05 PM
Melissa Griffy Seeton