Students prepare to dance all night to fund fight against cancer

Last year more than 300 students went 24 hours without sitting or sleeping — just dancing. This year, David Ritchie hopes to get even more students involved with DanceBlue, a yearlong fundraising event that ends with a 24-hour dance marathon to raise money for the UK Pediatric Oncology Clinic.

“We’re hoping to make it bigger and better this year,” Ritchie said. “We want to make a stronger impact on the clinic.”

Ritchie is the chairman for DanceBlue, which is on Feb. 22 through Feb. 23. Student organizations form teams of five or more people to raise the money. In 2006, the event’s first year, about 30 teams raised $123,323.16. Last year 60 teams raised $241,514.64 for the clinic, and this year Ritchie said about 75 teams are participating.

The amount of money the team earns determines how many dancers will participate in the marathon. Will Faulkner, a chemical engineering senior, is leader of the DanceBlue team for the UK rugby team. Last year, he said his team had only two dancers, but this year he hopes to have about eight to 10.

“We’re in the small team category so we have to raise $150 per person at least,” Faulkner said. “But we want to raise $200 to $300 per dancer.”

The marathon may sound exhausting, Ritchie said, but it is very high-energy. Each hour has a different theme, and there are also games and instructive dance hours. The last few hours of the event are “family hours,” Ritchie said, when the dancers are joined by children from the clinic and their families.

“There is a talent show and a memorial hour to honor all the children in the clinic who have passed away,” Ritchie said. “It really makes the entire experience worthwhile.”

Student Government President Nick Phelps volunteered at the marathon last year, and said the last few hours of the event can be very emotional.

“The kids come in and you hear their stories,” Phelps said. “It’s very touching.”

Faulkner said he got pretty tired around 5 a.m. last year, but helping out the Lexington community is a meaningful cause.

“I realize I’m pretty fortunate, and (at DanceBlue) you see how hard it is for other people, financially and physically,” Faulkner said.

Teams raise money through door-to-door and mail solicitation, and some use canning, where teams go to crowded areas, such as street intersections or sporting events, and ask individuals for donations. At the actual dance marathon, teams use pledge books to secure donations. DanceBlue also held a 5K run and a fall festival last semester.

Phelps said he plans on dancing in the marathon this year. While it is a fun event, he said it is difficult.

“It’s not easy — 24 hours is a long time,” Phelps said. “That’s the challenge, and that’s why it’s so worth it.”