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Merlene Davis: You can sit and be a part of the fun at DanceBlue

Above, UK student Erica Taylor took a break during the 22nd hour of the dance marathon.
Above, UK student Erica Taylor took a break during the 22nd hour of the dance marathon.

Marissa Smith didn't think she would be able to dance or stand on her feet, wide awake, for 24 hours, but she did it last year.

"It wasn't all the way as bad as I thought it would be," said Smith, 21, a University of Kentucky senior. "After a while, you weren't thinking about the pain or being sleepy."

That's because she and 700 other people, mostly students, were raising money for the Golden Matrix Fund, which benefits families and patients at the UK Pediatric Oncology Clinic.

The 24-hour event that Smith participated in last year is DanceBlue, a student-run philanthropy that holds fund-raising events all year, culminating in the dance marathon.

In its sixth year, DanceBlue will be held at Memorial Coliseum this weekend.

Because students have raised $2 million and because so many people are involved throughout the year, Smith said she is surprised when people say they've never heard of DanceBlue.

Brittany Peskind, DanceBlue public relations chairwoman, said the group wants to reach out from its core of college students. Sign-ups for dance participants are closed, Peskind said, but we all can come to Memorial Coliseum and watch the marathon.

"We welcome everyone," she said. "There will be hourly giveaways to people in the stands. You don't have to stay the entire time."

Also, if you would like to make a donation, there will be boxes at Memorial Coliseum, or you can bid in a silent auction. Plus, donations are always accepted online at Danceblue.org.

There are two good times when those of us who have no intentions or abilities to dance the night away can show our support, Peskind said. Starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, we can form a human tunnel, through which the 700 dancers will run to start the marathon. And at 3 p.m. Saturday, some children from the Pediatric Oncology Clinic will perform in a talent show.

Peskind, a UK senior who danced for two years before joining the committee, said the children are why so many students take part in the marathon.

"You get to meet the kids," she said. "You see them on the floor and understand what they go through with their chemo treatments. When you see what those children go through, then you can stay up for 24 hours."

In its first five years, DanceBlue has raised more than $2 million. Fund- raising starts in April, after new committee members are chosen, and it runs through March, Peskind said. She said this year's goal is to raise more than $600,000.

The Pediatric Oncology Clinic uses the money to help patients' families with transportation, tests, procedures and other medical bills. As funding grew, it also has supported pediatric cancer research and specialized clinic staff members.

Smith said the marathon atmosphere will not be boring. At the top of each hour, she said, there is a 10-minute line dance that everyone perfects by the end of the marathon.

There are themed hours as well, such as "Fantasy Fiction," which featured Harry Potter and a quidditch game. Or, she said, the theme could be "middle school dance," in which boy-band music is featured.

Smith is a committee member now, working to help the marathon run smoothly.

"People need to come by and see it," she said. "It really is surreal."

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