By the time I graduated from high school, three of my classmates had passed away from different forms of pediatric cancer. Three bright lights had been taken from our home and community, and those of us left tried our best to carry on their legacy and come together as a community. I remember being confused and thinking how unfair it was that some families had to face this terrible monster that no one should be asked to face: cancer. I knew I needed to do my part to fight back, no matter what it took. This desire to help enact change and serve others is what led me to join the dance marathon at my high school in my home state. Even then, I’m not sure if I truly grasped the importance of the dance marathon or how much it meant to families across the state. I just knew that it was the least I could do.

Upon coming to college, so much of that time was scary, intimidating, and a blur. One of my clearest memories from the beginning of my college career is from my SeeBlueU orientation. My parents and I were walking around and looking at all of the student organizations that I could join when my mother spotted the DanceBlue information table. She looked at me and said, “This one is right up your alley. I think you should get information from them!” I walked up to the table, nervous as could be, and was greeted by some of the warmest, most welcoming people I’m sure that UK had to offer. They painted me a picture of what DanceBlue was and how I could get involved. I don’t remember much else from that day, but I do remember going home with a burning desire to get involved with this incredible organization. I remember sitting at my first team meeting watching my team captain begin to weep tears of joy as she explained how much DanceBlue meant to her, and so many people across the state of Kentucky. I knew that anything that could illicit such a strong emotional connection from someone must be a GOOD thing, a thing filled with so much joy.

Fast forward two years, and I had the amazing opportunity to serve on Programming Committee for two years straight, and man, it has been the absolute sweetest of blessings. During my first year at UK, someone told me that if you open your heart to DanceBlue, it will undoubtedly change you. A passion for this amazing organization sparked after my first marathon. I was completely on fire for the kids and decided to apply for Committee. I had no idea what a profound impact being on Committee would have on me. It not only increased my desire to do everything I could every day of the year for the kids but also instilled in me a desire to have a servant’s heart.

What is Programming Committee and what do they do? Committee members on Programming Committee plan the entirety of the 24-hour dance marathon, down to the minute. Programmers work with their planning partners, as well as the Programming Chair and Coordinators, in order to serve the families, dancers, and spectators at DanceBlue. Programming spends an entire year planning for the joy that will inevitably be present at the marathon. From each hour theme to every single activity carried out, Programming tries to plan for joy to come forth out of their ideas. The point of each and every activity is to point to the Kids and the families, all of whom show us what true love and joy in the face of adversity looks like. Programming also has a unique opportunity to craft the dancer experience through each and every game and theme, as a way to reward the dancers for a yearlong effort to fundraise FTK.

DanceBlue means finding my purpose on this campus and in life. It represents friendships formed, tears cried, and hours of laughter. DanceBlue is an absolute force of nature. It unites people across campus, Kentucky, and the nation with a common cause to rally around. It truly exemplifies what it means to love and serve others, regardless of race, politics, background, or belief system. DanceBlue means planning for joy in the little moments of life and carrying that joy with you through the darkest moments life throws at you. DanceBlue means family. It means home. DanceBlue 2019, we’re coming for you!