Mother Honors Daughter’s Memory Through Nursing Award Fundraising Challenge

Young white female smiling at camera

It will soon be three years since Elizabeth Barnhart was senselessly killed by her husband at the couple’s Newark residence.

Barnhart, a 24-year-old registered nurse who loved her profession and was passionate about helping others, was only just beginning a promising career as an emergency room nurse at Newark’s Licking Memorial Hospital. A 2015 graduate of Central Ohio Technical College’s (COTC) Associate of Applied Science in Nursing Technology program, Barnhart was an outstanding student and well known to use the phrase “nurse so hard,” which she used to describe the deep level of compassion and commitment needed by nurses to provide exceptional patient care. 

Each year as this difficult anniversary approaches, Barnhart’s mother, Nancy Reeder, chooses to channel her energy into positive pursuits to celebrate her daughter’s life. In 2018 Reeder worked with COTC to establish the Elizabeth Barnhart Award for Nursing Excellence, which honors a graduating student who exemplifies the highest ideals of the nursing profession: intelligence, commitment, sacrifice, integrity and a compassionate connection to others. Reeder hosted a Celebration of Life for family and friends where she announced the creation of the award and encouraged people to donate.

In 2019 she asked a seamstress to make teddy bears out of Elizabeth’s clothes and presented them to family members and friends.

And in 2020, as another anniversary of Barnhart’s untimely death approaches on February 2, Reeder has instituted a 2020 challenge to raise funds for the Barnhart Award and ensure that her daughter’s legacy of nursing excellence will continue to live on. Reeder hopes that members of the community will be moved to make a gift of $20.20, $202.00, or $2,020 to honor Elizabeth’s commitment to the nursing profession and to offer support to graduates of COTC’s nursing technology program as they begin their career. The Barnhart Award is awarded to graduating associate degree nursing students at the COTC Newark campus and has become the highest honor a COTC nursing graduate can receive. To date, approximately $8,000 has been raised for the award, which has been presented eight times. Recipients receive a certificate and a $300 cash stipend to help defray the cost of equipment and career-related fees, including testing and licensure.

Coincidentally, but also timely and apropos, 2020 has been designated the Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organization. This year-long celebration not only recognizes the two hundredth birthday of Florence Nightingale, who is broadly recognized as the founder of modern nursing, but also honors all nurses and midwives who have devoted their lives to providing lifesaving care and meeting essential health needs.

“I am so grateful for the efforts of this community to remember Elizabeth,” said Reeder. “She loved working with people. It was her passion, and I hope that through this award in Elizabeth’s memory we can help many, many more young nurses begin their own inspiring careers. I am helpless to the actions that were taken against her; to help me heal, these actions have been all I’ve known to do. Losing a child is the ultimate sacrifice and should not happen. Any donation to help Elizabeth’s memory stay alive will not only help the fund, but it will also help the family to know that others still remember her as well. ”

For those wishing to honor Elizabeth Barnhart’s legacy, contributions can be made to the Elizabeth Barnhart Award for Nursing Excellence at or by calling 740.364.9514. Checks payable to the “COTC Elizabeth Barnhart Award” can also be mailed to the COTC Advancement Office, 1179 University Drive, Newark, Ohio 43055.

COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC has four campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.