The weekend after my first DanceBlue marathon, I went home to visit my family. I remember being so excited to share the important lessons I’d learned in those seemingly short 24 hours (I was also pretty excited to show off the dance moves I’d acquired). When talking to my family about the marathon, my little brother asked me what was most sore after the marathon – my feet, my legs, my throat from singing so loud? Without a second thought, I told him it was my face. He gave me a crazy look, which is expected because my face wasn’t the part of my body doing the heavy lifting during those 24 hours. But my face held a constant smile until I finally closed my eyes to sleep after the marathon ended. It was a smile induced by my surroundings – individuals who exhibited the most love, generosity, compassion, sacrifice, selflessness and humor I had ever witnessed. I always love to tell that story when I am asked what DanceBlue means to me. It is a constant smile.

I first encountered DanceBlue on a very cloudy day during my freshman year. I was walking home from the library and passed a table full of the friendliest people I had ever met. I was so impressed by the intentions of their conversations. I could tell love poured out of them as soon as I met them. I immediately admired these people for their selflessness and kindness, and easily fell in love with DanceBlue after I heard them speak about It. I knew I wanted to get involved but I was afraid I wasn’t cut out to participate in such a challenging 24 hours. I decided to volunteer during the marathon my freshman year due to hesitation, but knew I wanted to dance in the marathon as soon as I witnessed DanceBlue first-hand. I had the opportunity to be a dancer my sophomore year, and now I have been given the opportunity to serve on the DB21 Family Relations Committee. My excitement is unreal!

Many can attest to the humility that comes with being a part of something much bigger than yourself. There is something so beautiful about being in a room full of college students who share one goal: the fight for happier days and brighter tomorrows for the kids.

One of my favorite memories about this past marathon was tossing around a beach ball with one of the DanceBlue kids. Her laugh was contagious and she had a light about her that could fill any room she was in. She brought me so much joy and instantly became my hero.

My hero wore a little pink tiara…I think that’s better than a cape.

All of these kids are my heroes. It’s funny, you go into DanceBlue wanting to make an impact on the families, but you leave knowing that they made more of an impact on you. They are living examples of strength, love, trust and happiness. It is a blessing to witness their journeys.

DanceBlue honors these children for their bravery and strength, and we come together to support these families and admire them for the sacrifices they make everyday. DaceBlue is taking the sourest lemons life has given and turning it into Elena’s Lemonade. DanceBlue gives purpose – to me, to students, and to the UK community as a whole. It is more than a 24-hour marathon. It is the way we live, the way we love, and the way we give.