If you've spent time on UK's campus in the last few years, then you've likely seen students walking puppies and dogs donned in red vests. They're in classes, residence halls and even Commencement ceremonies. They are not pets, but service dogs-in-training, and the students are volunteers for the UK chapter of 4 Paws for Ability, which aims to socialize and reinforce training with service puppies. These dogs are ultimately placed with a family, many with disabled children, as hearing ear dogs, autism assistance dogs and mobility assistance dogs.
The program was brought to UK in 2009 when Logan Bright, now a 2012 graduate of the UK College of Education, decided to show her peers the value of community service.
"I wanted to show college students that community service can be fun," Bright said. "With this program, you learn how being a part of an organization like this can benefit other people in the community and beyond so much. One of the dogs trained at UK went to a child with autism. The dog now goes to school with the child and helps him do everyday things such as socializing with his peers."
4 Paws for Ability is just one of many programs at the university where students can give back and make a real difference in others' lives. Service is not only a core component of UK's mission, but it is also a time-honored tradition that students, faculty and staff care about deeply, and the numbers prove it. Last year alone, the total number of service hours contributed to the community by UK students was nearly 96,000, and the number of agencies affected was over 500. UK's Center for Community Outreach (CCO) is at the heart of these service efforts, connecting the UK community with the surrounding community in collaborative efforts to promote life-long community service.
UK FUSION (UK For Unity and Service in Our Neighborhoods), has become Kentucky's largest single-day service project. Now in its 11th year, the popular event attracts around 1,400 students, faculty and staff who serve more than 100 sites across the city of Lexington before the beginning of the fall semester. Volunteers help these agencies with things like painting, yard work and organizing supplies.
"UK FUSION represents UK in a manner reflective of standards and values committed to finding something greater than the individual, and contributing to a worthwhile cause where change ensues," said Rhonda Strouse, director of UK Student Involvement. "The impact is that of a long lasting tradition of service for both the individual participants and UK."
Also housed in the CCO is DanceBlue, UK's renowned 24-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon, and a nationally leading example of UK's dedication to service. The student-run philanthropy event has raised more than $5 million for pediatric cancer research since its inception in 2006 and has become one of UK's most popular traditions. Last year it was rated one of the Top 10 Biggest College Fundraisers by thebestcolleges.com.
"Our campus’ yearlong efforts support cancer research at the Markey Cancer Center and social support at the DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Hematology Oncology Clinic," said Ethan Ritter, overall chair for DanceBlue 2013. "Throughout the year, as a part of DanceBlue’s Adopt-a-Family Program, dancers and teams become connected to the families we serve. We know their faces and names, their hopes and dreams. It is, and always will be, an absolute honor to dance for them and to be part of their story."
4 Paws for Ability, FUSION and DanceBlue are just a few of many service opportunities available to UK students. To learn more, visit getinvolved.uky.edu/cco.