Do you remember the first time you heard about DanceBlue?

I do. I was a sophomore at UK and my friends tried earnestly to convince me to participate in the marathon that year. Honestly, I didn’t exactly understand the hype. 24-hours on my feet? “Nope! I’ll just support you all from the stands.”

And that’s what I did.

As I stood in Memorial Coliseum, It didn’t take long for me to realize that there was no way I would pass up participating in DanceBlue the following year. So I did. I invited my parents to come for the final hours of the marathon, and afterward, I received a text from my mom. “Anne Marie,” she wrote, “Dad and I were in tears. It’s amazing the power that can be found in working as a team.”

Those words have stuck with me because they are central to the mission of DanceBlue. Through celebrating with over 800 students when DanceBlue raised over $1 million For the Kids for the first time and working tirelessly alongside fellow committee members to prepare for the marathon, I have been convinced that we are more powerful as a team.

But there’s something bigger that makes DanceBlue so special.

You see, all of us have something in common. We have all experienced something difficult in our lives. Whether it’s a missed opportunity, a broken relationship, unmet expectations, or sickness, pain is universal. “It isn’t supposed to be this way,” we tell ourselves. And we’re right. It’s not meant to be like this.

But that’s what is so powerful about DanceBlue. DanceBlue is about taking something that is indescribably difficult — like a cancer diagnosis — and saying that we can face it together. We are reclaiming it for good; we are saying that hard things can be meaningful. Yes, we acknowledge the hardship, but we don’t let it steal our joy.

In a world that tries to use our pain to divide us, DanceBlue says that we are stronger when we stand together.

If you’re a UK student, I encourage you to participate this year. Volunteer, dance, or cheer on your friends, and I promise you won’t regret it.

If you’re a family member or a friend, come to the marathon this year and see what DanceBlue is all about.

If you’re an alumnus, join your UK family for DanceBlue this spring and see the ways our students have built off of your legacy. I’ll be right there alongside you cheering from the stands once more.