Behind The Scenes
Take Control: Bringing a Survivor’s story to life through design

By The Pelotonia Team|February 28, 2021

In a recent partnership with Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD), the mission of Pelotonia came together around a single student project: create a piece of merchandise to be sold through The Pelotonia Shop that tells the story of a Survivor.
Nicole Monahan, CCAD’s director of corporate and community, proposed this project to Assistant Professor Audrey Nicolas for her Professional Practice class to work on in collaboration with Pelotonia.
“I felt that this collaboration would be a great fit for this class, especially during a time when we are all in need of meaningful connection,” Audrey says. “Students could experience the creative process of designing as a group, inspired by a unique story, but also keeping in mind Pelotonia’s brand and mission. They all valued this collaboration as they were able to contribute to an important cause, even in a small way."
Three student groups worked throughout the semester to create a final piece of merchandise to present to members of the Pelotonia team. After analyzing each story and final product, a winner was chosen to have their work sold on The Shop.
And the winners were… *cue drumroll*... Ridhima Batra, Nicole Klein, and Skylar Rice, with their t-shirt centered around the theme of “Taking Control!”
So, how did this winning t-shirt come to be?
It all started with a profound interview, featuring cancer Survivor Grissette Alvarado.
Grissette shared in her interview with the group that on February 13, 2019, she lost her job and with that, her healthcare benefits at the end of that month. To take advantage of her health insurance while she still had it, she decided to get all of her check-ups and wellness appointments done.
On February 25, just 3 days before her insurance would be gone, Grissette went in for her mammogram that was overdue. She looked at her final scan that day and noticed a circle that she describes resembling the Milky Way.
The technician advised that the report would be sent to her OB/GYN for follow up and next steps. She was then advised by him to make an appointment with a specialist. It was confirmed at that appointment: Grissette had stage 2A breast cancer.
“It was utterly numbing,” she recalls. “I remember thinking that they must have mixed up my file.”
Once her chemotherapy started, Grissette decided to focus on her mental health, since she couldn’t be as active physically. It started with shaving her head before her hair began to fall out and continued through personal development exercises for the duration of her treatment. She committed to remaining positive and surrounding herself with encouraging family and friends.
“I feel like a warrior,” she says. “I feel like I fought a battle. I feel strength and mental peace.”
Today, Grissette is happy to announce that she has been declared cancer free.
After the interview, the CCAD students went back and thought about their conversation with Grissette and the main messages of her incredible story.
“Throughout the interview one phrase that I found that she emphasized was how she wanted to take control of her journey and that really stuck with me,” CCAD Junior Ridhima Batra shares.
During the students’ design stage, that phrase continued to stand out to team members and made its way onto their mood board, along with images of Grissette and other strong women. Other aspects of the board included neutral and calming colors, but with pops of more energetic tones, as well as the motif of bold statements and repeated phrases.
The team also studied Pelotonia’s website and social media to learn more about Pelotonia as an organization and community. CCAD junior Skylar Rice remarks that she didn’t really know what Pelotonia was before this project, although she did notice the special arrows on people’s cars throughout Columbus.
All of the teammates said they enjoyed the process of learning more about Grissette, as well as Pelotonia’s mission.
Ridhima adds, “As designers, most of the time subconsciously we design for ourselves, but this project taught me how to design for someone else and how to share someone else’s story through it, especially when the story is so special.”
The presentation day arrived and the three teams presented their designs. Ridhima, Skylar, and Nicole’s team went first and took home first prize, as well. All three women were excited to hear that they had won best design and would see their item sold to the community.
“The feeling of winning was so awesome,” Skylar remarks. “As a student you’re not really used to that big of a response to a project. You usually just receive your grade and move on to the next project. But it is so incredible and exciting to see a design really come to life on clothing and not just a sketch.”
This project shows the impact of sharing the community’s stories through many different mediums, including written articles, social media, and merchandise. Pelotonia Merchandise Manager Ashley Ellashek hopes to continue to inspire and tell stories through the items sold on The Shop.
“I'm so excited to partner with CCAD on this project and continue to touch many, many more community members throughout our town and beyond,” she says. “The opportunity to share ideas and inspiration with others is one of the many reasons I love my job!
You can purchase this shirt for yourself here.
100% of participant-raised funds go to innovative cancer research.

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