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Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky dance team sophomore Kate Kaufling dies after fight against cancer

Kate Kaufling poses for a portrait during media day. Photo by UK Athletics.

Kate Kaufling, a University of Kentucky dance team sophomore, died of cancer on March 29, less than a year after her diagnosis. She was 20 years old.

Kaufling was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in June 2023.

“Kate was a joy to coach and to be around. Her smile could light up a room and she was beloved by all of her UKDT teammates,” UK Dance Team head coach Dawn Walters said in a press release from UK Athletics. “We are all saddened by Kate’s passing. We will remember her for the tough battle she fought with osteosarcoma over the past year. She was brave until the very end and all of us can draw inspiration from the courageous battle that she fought. Our thoughts, prayers and love are with the Kaufling family.”

Kate and her twin sister, Abbey, joined the dance team at Kentucky in the fall of 2022. They grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where they attended Assumption High School.

“Me and Kate spent quite literally every moment of our life together,” Abbey said. “Being able to have her with me every single minute of my life was always really special.”

In the recent days after her death, Kate’s story has received national attention along with outpouring support for Abbey and her family.

“It made me realize that I think Kate was brought on this earth to bring awareness to osteosarcoma because it’s such a rare form of cancer,” Abbey said. “I think she was brought here to bring awareness and hopefully find more research for this terrible and aggressive disease.”

Abbey said that her sister continued to stay positive and true to herself while going through chemotherapy treatment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“Kate was a very selfless girl,” Abbey said. “Even when we were in the hospital, she would always ask me if I was okay and how I was doing … She always made the best of every day. She always had her pearls on and her lashes on no matter what, even if it was the worst day or the best day.”

The Kaufling family started “Kate’s Krew” at the beginning of her treatment and continue to use their outlet to spread awareness for cancer and carry on Kate’s legacy.

They developed a card called “Be Kate Kind” to pass around the community for those to remember Kate and encourage acts of kindness. 

Approximately 800 cases of osteosarcoma are reported every year in the U.S., with 50% of those cases occurring in children and teenagers, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Visitation for Kate will take place on Monday, April 8, from 2-8 p.m. EST at Ratterman and Sons Funeral Home in Louisville, Kentucky. A second day of visitation will follow on Tuesday, April 9, from 10-1 p.m. at the same location.

Kate’s funeral service will be held after the second day of visitation at 1 p.m.

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