For The Kids (FTK). Just three words- three small words- but the meaning behind those three words goes so much deeper. In 2014, approximately 10,450 children under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer. This is a number that is much larger than it should be. No child should have to go through this type of physical and emotional pain, but on February 22-23, 2014, 836 students at the University of Kentucky stood for 24 hours to fight against childhood cancer. 836 students participated in Dance Blue a 24 hour, no sitting dance marathon. $1,436,606.24 (that’s 1.4 MILLION dollars!!) was raised toward UK’s Child Hematology/Oncology Clinic to help ease the pain of the childhood cancer patients across the bluegrass.
For the first time since 2007, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE) participated in a university wide, Dance Blue Marathon. In August, a group of students decided that the CAFE should give back and participate in UK Dance Blue. From September to January, students in the CAFE fundraised, sent donor letters, and emails to help raise money for Dance Blue. The support that we got from our families, our friends and staff/faculty in the CAFE was endless. Together, we had eight students on the CAFE Dance Blue team and with the help of many people we raise $2,900 towards the University of Kentucky Dance Blue Marathon. For our first time having a team in a few years, I am so proud of what we accomplished. I am also thankful for the kind words, Facebook "likes," support, money raised, smiles and high fives we got along the way from so many. What I am especially proud of is our attitude towards the marathon.
Around 12 hours into the marathon, I started to get a little discouraged. Would I be able to make it to the end? What if I could not finish? But it was also around the 12-13 hour mark that I really started to realize who I and the other 835 students were dancing for. The kids that we danced for have a disease that is constantly damaging their body. These children do not get to “sit” down after the 24 hours is up. The kids and their families will forever deal with the aftermath of cancer; even if they survive, cancer will always live with them. This truly is a sad reality. It break my heart to hear the number of children who have cancer and to see the strength in the children that were at Dance Blue. When I signed up to participate in Dance Blue, I knew the reason why I was dancing, but it was not until I was really struggling that I really understood who I was dancing for.
Around the time that I had this realization, my attitude towards the whole dance changed. During the 11 minute line dance, which was done at the top of every hour, I was more energetic. I found myself giving words of encouragement to the dancers around me. And most importantly, I found myself not giving up. If I found myself getting tired, I constantly reminded myself that I am completely capable of standing for 24 hours for someone who cannot and I was surrounded by 835 other dancers that were completely capable and willing to for 24 hours to help those around us.
I am proud of what we accomplished in 24 hours. I am proud of the amount of people who did not give up. I am proud of the amount of money that was raised. I am proud of all of the people who came to support this event. I am proud of all the leaders on the Dance Blue committees. But what I am most proud of is being a part of a University that wants to make a difference in our state and in our country. As humans, we are called to help those around us who are not capable of helping themselves. We are designed to be loving, selfless, beings. FTK are three words that kept us all going. When our muscles ached, FTK. When we felt tired, FTK. When we did not think we could last the full 24 hours, FTK. I was blessed with the ability to stand for 24 hours for someone else and I was blessed to give, not to have. FTK.
Kelsey is a junior majoring in Community & Leadership Development. She is from Pendleton County, Kentucky and is active in Sigma Alpha, UK Ag Ambassadors, UK Ag Student Council and other things across campus. She was also a past Kentucky 4-H Officer.