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Dancers raise record breaking $2.13 million at annual DanceBlue marathon

Matthew Mueller
Organizers dance to start the kick-off of Dance Blue on Saturday, April 6, 2024, at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Matthew Mueller | Staff

The 19th annual DanceBlue marathon fundraised a record-breaking $2.13 million for patients and families of the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Hematology/Oncology Clinic on April 6.

Over 850 dancers and volunteers from the University of Kentucky gathered at Rupp Arena to participate in this year’s 24-hour, no-sitting, no-sleeping fundraiser to help support the final request of clinic patient Jarrett Mynear, who wanted to “do something to help the Clinic,” according to their website.

The DanceBlue marathon was first established in 2006 and has raised over $22 million after this weekend’s event to help children fighting against pediatric cancer, making it one of the largest student-run philanthropies in the Southeastern Conference.

The event kicked off with the reveal of the night’s line-dance, a dance that students performed at the beginning of every hour.

“Well, I learned this (line-) dance — and I’m going to show it off,” UK computer science senior Reece Allen said. “Every single time I do it, it gets better … and it’s cool to see how everyone’s getting better around me, so by the end of these 24 hours, we’re all going to be dancing experts.”

Allen said he attended the fundraiser with a group of Student Alumni Ambassadors, and his favorite part of DanceBlue revolved around the hourly line-dances.

The almost 30-song line-dance medley included a range of popular songs such as “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars, “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins and “What Dreams Are Made Of” by Hilary Duff.

A way to document such moments for dancers was the DanceBlue app that included a feature called “DBMoments.” According to UK junior Zoe Hallam, during the last five minutes of every hour, dancers had the opportunity to take a BeReal-styled picture to share with their friends. 

A unique feature for dancers to document throughout the 24 hours was the change of location from previous years. 

The 2024 marathon was hosted at Rupp Arena in light of current construction at Memorial Coliseum relocating them from their usual event space, according to DanceBlue 2024 Overall Chair and UK senior Caroline Sumner.

“This year, with moving to a new venue, we had a whole lot of ambiguity,” Sumner said. “But luckily, I have an amazing team around me, and we were able to plan as much as we could with very little and vague information, but it’s turning out fantastic.”

Sumner said she was in charge of the operations that went into planning this year’s event, steps as early as “the day after last year’s (marathon) ended,” with the possibility of  “a week or two break.”

It is unknown whether the 2025 DanceBlue will be held at Rupp a second time and will “be up to future teams,” according to Sumner.

Throughout the night, dancers participated in hourly themes, each one having different activities and games for them to participate in.

Dancers entered the midnight hour of the marathon with a series of events called “DB Games,” where they participated in activities such as balloon popping, tug of war, a three-legged race and a potato sack race.

Dancers also participated in the themed hour titled “Trivia Crack,” where dancers went around the floor answering questions centered around topics involving geography, art, history and science.

Towards the end of the trivia hour, dancers received hand-written letters from friends and family to motivate and encourage them to continue dancing.

After participating in over 10 different-themed hours, committee members started to introduce some of DanceBlue’s sponsors around 9 a.m.

Some notable sponsors included Coca-Cola with a donation of $10,000, MedPace with a donation of $7,500 and Fischer Homes with a donation of $10,000.

Dancers also participated in a series of donation challenges around this time, where those who donated could ask a dancer to participate in activities like finish-the-lyric, where they had to complete the missing lyrics in songs like “Billie Jean,” “Take On Me” and “I Want It That Way.”

Around 2 p.m on April 7, country music singer Chayse Abrams performed on stage at DanceBlue.

Abrams performed a variety of covers for the dancers, like “Should Have Been A Cowboy,” by Toby Keith, “Chicken Fried,” by Zac Brown Band and “Free Bird,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Abrams also played a new song of his that hasn’t been released yet, titled “Fire Starter.”

After Abrams’ performance, funds raised from school’s hosting “mini marathons” were announced, totaling over $500,000. Such schools included Maxwell Elementary, which raised over $6,000, and Bourbon Christian Academy, which raised over $3,000.

“A lot of us start at mini marathons,” said DanceBlue fundraising chair and Alpha Delta Pi senior Alex Wesley. “So those are smaller DanceBlues of what you’re seeing here … (instead of) 24 hours, they can be from four to eight hours.”

Similar to Wesley’s passion for DanceBlue and desire to seek change in his community, Allen took the earlier initiative as being a Lexington-native to get involved with the fundraiser and once more before leaving UK.

“I grew up in Lexington, so I’ve always known about it,” Allen said. “I did the mini marathons at my highschool … and this is the first year at UK where the opportunity really presented itself where I was like, ‘You know what, I really wanna do this before I graduate.’”

Many other students also felt as though they had a strong personal connection with DanceBlue, such as UK elementary education junior Kat Szumsky.

“Working with kids is a huge passion of mine,” Szumsky said. “And … obviously, pediatric oncology and hematology is a pretty intense subject. I feel like this is a very approachable and manageable way to contribute positively to that.”

Szumsky said this was her third time attending the DanceBlue marathon. She said she was participating through her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, whose philanthropy works alongside DanceBlue with the Adopt-A-Family program.

“It’s obviously all for the kids,” Szumsky said. “We’re fortunate to have what’s called an Adopt-A-Family, so, we have this really cool program where we basically get to take care of a family for a year that’s going through treatment … it kind of makes it a more personable experience (since) we have someone that we’re taking care of.”

Additional sorority members participated in the event, such as UK sophomore and Alpha Gamma Delta member Mallory Brashear, who took the initiative as a freshman to be a part of something bigger than herself.

“I would say just take a chance and get involved,” Brashear said. “It can be a little daunting at first with all the fundraising things we have to do, but just remember why we’re doing it, the reason we’re doing it, to give back to the children and to the DanceBlue clinic.”

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Matthew Mueller, Photo Editor

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