As a student or donor, it sometimes feels as though the families of DanceBlue are so far away, especially this year. We say For The Kids, but the reality is that sometimes we aren’t given the opportunity to hear the stories of our families until the final hour of the marathon. These families are the point – we dance for them. We do all of this for people like the Gunnell family.
What does DanceBlue mean to you?
Dance Blue to us is a way to connect with other families. Eli gets to meet kids that don’t look at him like he’s weird for thinking that the hospital is where all kids go and play with friends (child life specialist or DanceBlue volunteers). Everyone has a similar “normal” (All pre-COVID, of course). We have also connected with other parents and met some of the most amazing group of kids and gained friendships with our Adopt-A-Family.
The moment we received Eli’s diagnosis (January 25, 2019) everything changed. What was important the day before didn’t matter, not work or anything else – only Eli. There was fear of what could happen to him, to our finances, to our lives. Anger for what was happening in general.
What has been the hardest part of this journey?
Eli is an extremely social being and the hardest part (besides everything medical) is isolation. He was in kindergarten when he was diagnosed, and he didn’t understand that he couldn’t go to school. When he was able to “visit” everyone treated him different and that bothered him. He has had some struggles with school, but we think it is just where he missed so much in person.
What brings you joy, even in trying times?
Seeing that boy smile and be goofy when he is in clinic brings me so much joy. The volunteers always treated him like he was a king. DanceBlue has always included little sis in everything as well. We have been to 2 DanceBlue marathons and it is by far Ella’s favorite event – by the end of the night every dancer knows her name. Everyone knows Eli also, but he’s not as much in-your-face as Ella.
What would you like the University of Kentucky to know about your experience with DanceBlue?
We instantly had an extended family. DanceBlue helped us with food vouchers while in the hospital and parking passes so that Dad (Ron) could continue to work and helped bring Eli’s sister (Ella) to visit. Kara helped ease some of the stress she let us cry and vent. Without DanceBlue we wouldn’t have the lasting friendships, love and support that we have gained. I am glad that in the beginning, we were able to have DanceBlue volunteers in his life, I know with COVID it is different, but they helped him relax – he knew if he went through his pokes first then he could play the rest of the time with the volunteers. He’s not afraid of clinic or hospital because he has friends there. Eli loves the DanceBlue volunteers and would probably prefer to hang out with them instead of me!