Why I DanceBlue: Ethan's Story
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 20, 2013) — DanceBlue 2013 is just a few days away and for many UK students, the marathon is not only a way to honor the children and families of the DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic, it is a way for them to honor those that they have lost.
In 2008, Ethan Ritter, 2013 DanceBlue overall chair, lost his cousin Zach to cancer. Below is his first-person account of love, loss and how DanceBlue allows him to honor his cousin's memory.
We were like brothers.
My cousin Zachary and I grew up together - literally. His house sits right next to my parents and he and his sisters were my second set of siblings growing up. They were my best friends and fellow troublemakers. We learned to ride bikes without training wheels together and how to sneak to each other’s houses and back without our parents knowing we were gone.
Zach was famous for digging huge holes in his backyard; we were all famous for making snow days incredible. During my eighth grade year, my cousin Zachary was diagnosed with cancer. He was 10 years old. A lump on his lower back proved to be alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the soft tissues.
When Zach was diagnosed with cancer, we knew things were going to change. The digging of backyard holes was suspended and his baseball glove stayed in his garage for months at a time. For three and a half years we witnessed him fight a disease over which he had no control.
It may have stolen his energy, but never his hope and love of life. On Aug. 1, 2008, I said goodbye to Zach for the last time.
It seems like more and more we hear these types of stories. Cancer knows no boundaries, economic or social status; it can affect your child, your neighbor or your best friend.
Each spring, for the past seven years, DanceBlue has brought thousands of students together to dance for 24 hours, without sitting or sleeping. We come as a group of individuals, from across the state, the country and the world carrying with us our own stories and experiences. We come from different backgrounds bearing our own views and beliefs, but we stand for one cause - the kids.
Our campus’ yearlong efforts support cancer research at the Markey Cancer Center and social support at the DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Hematology Oncology Clinic. Throughout the year, as a part of DanceBlue’s Adopt-a-Family Program, dancers and teams become connected to the families we serve. We know their faces and names, their hopes and dreams. It is, and always will be, an absolute honor to dance for them and to be part of their story.
So this week, as I begin to break in my “marathon sneakers” and get a few more donations, I remember my cousin Zach and think about kids just like him in a similar situation. I remember his thirst for life and know that so many others are thirsting just the same. I remember what it feels like to be a kid myself and prepare myself to dance without inhibition.
For 24 hours we dance for life, for Zach, for Kentucky, for our families, for hope and For The Kids.
The eighth annual DanceBlue dance marathon kicks off at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at Memorial Coliseum on UK's campus and concludes at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23. DanceBlue is UK’s 24 hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon that benefits the Golden Matrix Fund and the DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Oncology Clinic. Since its inception in 2006, DanceBlue has raised more than $3.5 million for pediatric cancer research and children with cancer.
DanceBlue is a program housed in the Center for Community Outreach. The CCO seeks to serve, connect and unite the University of Kentucky with the surrounding community in collaborative efforts to promote life-long community service. For more information about the CCO, visit getinvolved.uky.edu/cco. Connect with the CCO on Facebook here and on Twitter at twitter.com/ukcco.
MEDIA CONTACT: Katy Bennett, firstname.lastname@example.org, (859) 257-1909