I first encountered DanceBlue when I was seven years old, but my family’s interactions with the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Hematology/Oncology Clinic go back a little further than that. My younger brother, Charlie, was diagnosed with a rare blood condition called ITP when he was three years old. The clinic staff was there every step of the way for help and support and has been in the nine years since then. We appreciate them every day. However, I am not here to tell my brother’s story, but my own.

My father works at the University, and heard about DanceBlue as a community charity event that benefited the Clinic. He decided it would make for a fun father-daughter date and took me to see the second day of the marathon. Charlie had just received his initial diagnosis, and it had affected every member of my family, including me, deeply. Dad and I had not heard about memorial hour or its contents. As the hour progressed, we sat there together, watching and listening. I remember turning to my father at one point and asking simply if Charlie was going to pass away like the children we saw on the screens. He quickly reassured me that Charlie’s condition was not like theirs, and we were lucky we didn’t have to worry about that.

Dad’s reassurance set three trains of thought in motion. First was a sense of relief that Charlie would still be with me the next day. Second was a sense of worry for other Clinic families. Third, and most importantly, was determination. Determination that others should be as lucky as my family was, determination that I could help and moreover, that I wanted to help more than anything. In that moment, I understood how important DanceBlue could be, and how much it could change the lives of others in central Kentucky, and I wanted nothing more than to make some contribution, no matter how small.

As a seven-year-old, I decided that a lemonade stand would be the best way to raise money for DanceBlue. I ran my first lemonade stand during the summer of 2010 at my family’s yard sale. I did this the next year as well, and for both years, my parents matched the money I raised with profits from the yard sale. Both years I mailed the money I had raised into the DanceBlue leadership with a little note explaining who I was and how I had raised the money. In the summer of 2011, they mailed back, explaining that they were inspired to match the money I had sent in because of my story, and more importantly, they invited me to come to the 2012 marathon as an honored guest and stated that they were going to build me a lemonade stand to use while I was there. The rest is history…

My family and I now run several stands a year all around Lexington, and we’ve raised over $31,000 dollars for DanceBlue. It’s been nearly ten years since I first sat through memorial hour with my father, but every year I am reminded of how much DanceBlue has come to mean to me. I am honored to be part of such a positive, welcoming community, and treasure how I am able to contribute in my own small way. DanceBlue has come to be synonymous with love, friendship, family and acceptance, and more than that, it has come to mean hope: hope for the future, hope for a cure and hope for us to be the best kind of people that we can be by helping others.