With tired feet and full hearts, there's nothing more thrilling to the participants and student leaders of DanceBlue than seeing the fundraising total revealed in the final few minutes of UK's annual dance marathon. The reveal of the fundraising total is the culmination of a yearlong effort by DanceBlue — work that exemplifies the passion UK students have 'For The Kids.'
Started in 2006, DanceBlue raises money and awareness of pediatric cancer by supporting the Golden Matrix Fund. The Golden Matrix Fund was created to benefit the DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic patients and families. Childhood cancer not only affects the child physically, but it also creates many emotional and financial difficulties for the entire family. Children who have cancer make routine visits to the hospital and have to undergo countless tests and procedures regularly, all the while trying to fit in with their peers. Families affected by childhood cancer are faced with countless added stressors to their daily lives: paying medical bills, obtaining transportation to and from hospital visits, taking time off work to care for their children and the emotional effects on other siblings.
DanceBlue funds provide salary support for professionals who help patients and their families deal with all aspects of childhood cancer. DanceBlue directly funds two social workers who are dedicated to pediatric oncology social work and who connect families with various resources. Prior to DanceBlue there were no dedicated pediatric oncology social workers.
DanceBlue also helps fund the long-term follow-up care at UK that provides medical care for survivors of childhood cancer. DanceBlue provides salary support for neurocognitive testing of the patients, which helps diagnose therapy-related learning disorders, and helps the clinic communicate with schools for appropriate intervention. DanceBlue also helps provide clinical research associate support that allows the latest treatment plans offered by the National Cancer Institute Children's Oncology Group. DanceBlue supports laboratory research in pediatric oncology and in the Markey Cancer Center.
But raising money isn't all DanceBlue students do; they spend time with the patients and their families in the clinic, helping to cheer them up, keep them company and make their days a little brighter. DanceBlue student volunteers spend in excess of 30 hours per week volunteering in the clinic.
"Coming into the committee-side of DanceBlue, I was worried about volunteering at the clinic," Alex Wade, 2014 family relations chair, said. "I knew I liked playing with kids. I knew I wanted to serve this mission, and volunteering in the clinic weekly I see the kids at their very worst, and it puts you in a vulnerable position. But what's crazy is that going into the clinic —that ends up being the best part of my week. You ultimately end up being so uplifted because I've never heard them complain before.
They just want to play with you and love you. And they just want to play 'Break the Ice,' make some crafts and be normal. To be able to see that, to be able to see a picture of that and that positive attitude makes me want to do that, too. I just want to go play and love people and not complain about what I'm going through because it doesn’t even touch what they're going through. To be able to hear their story on top of that and how they're persevering through that — it's so uplifting."
DanceBlue is led by 138 committee members including an overall chair and nine committee chairs: family relations, corporate relations, operations, public relations, programming, mini marathons, dancer relations, technology and fundraising and has two UK staff advisors. These chairs and their committees work to make DanceBlue an awesome experience for everyone involved — dancers, patients and spectators.
"I came to Dance Blue to watch my freshman year," Wade said. "And I know that I'm not a dancer so it was really easy for me to say 'this is a great organization but it's not for me because I'm not a dancer and never have been,' but watching it for the first time, I think everyone has this moment where they know they have to be a part of it after they see it. You can't really describe it — the way that it makes you feel when you see 800 people are going towards the exact same mission, something so much bigger than themselves. Seeing that actually happen through the University of Kentucky and everyone being united in that throughout the whole year it makes you be involved no matter if you're a dancer or not."
DanceBlue is a program housed in the Center for Community Outreach. The CCO seeks to serve, connect and unite the University of Kentucky with the surrounding community in collaborative efforts to promote life-long community service. For more information about the CCO, visitgetinvolved.uky.edu/cco. Connect with the CCO on Facebook here and on Twitter attwitter.com/ukcco.
Give to DanceBlue here and connect with DanceBlue on Facebook at www.facebook.com/danceblueand on Twitter at twitter.com/UKDanceBlue and on Tumblr at danceblue.tumblr.com. You can also follow DanceBlue on Instagram.