Campus News

Behind DanceBlue



LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 18, 2011) — Ask UK students about DanceBlue and you'll see a special twinkle in their eyes. Whether they have danced, fundraised, and participated or not, there's something about DanceBlue that reaches to the core of each Wildcat on campus — a sense of pride that rivals that of those seven national championship banners hanging from the rafters of Rupp Arena. Tonight, UK's sixth annual dance marathon kicks off at 8 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum.

DanceBlue is a 24-hour, no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon at the University of Kentucky to raise money for the Golden Matrix Fund. The Golden Matrix Fund benefits cancer research, children with cancer and their families at the UK Pediatric Oncology Clinic at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

DanceBlue was originated in 2004 when a forum was led by Jennifer Mynear about the possibility of starting a dance marathon at UK. Mynear’s son, Jarrett died at the age of 13 after an 11-year long battle with cancer. Leadership groups around UK's campus were inspired to recruit organizers for this new cancer campaign, and they were met with tremendous support. Organizers found a welcome home for this new event at the UK Center for Community Outreach.

The first DanceBlue marathon took place in February 2006 with more than 30 student organizations and 180 dancers. The marathon raised $123,323.16 for the UK Pediatric Oncology Clinic. That year, DanceBlue broke all fundraising records for a first-year dance marathon event. It became the most successful student-run philanthropy event in UK’s history and has continued to grow over the years. DanceBlue 2010, with 120 teams and more than 660 dancers, was able to raise $636,638.58. Since the first marathon in 2006, DanceBlue has raised more than $2 million for the UK Pediatric Oncology Clinic. This year, DanceBlue will have more than 700 dancers from 120 different student organization teams.


A lot of people know about the marathon and see it run like clockwork, but to put on a 24-hour dance marathon it takes a year’s worth of planning and a lot of teamwork. Nine student chairs, their advisers and nearly 100 student committee members dedicate their time, energy and passion to creating a massive weekend event in addition to a year-long fundraising effort. Here’s a chance for you to meet the 2011 DanceBlue chairs:

Matt Dempsey, 2011 DanceBlue Overall Chair

Dempsey is a senior marketing and management major from Louisville. As a freshman, Dempsey jumped right into being involved with DanceBlue as a volunteer for the marathon. Since then he has been a committee member and marketing chair for the organization. As chair, Dempsey’s main responsibilities include managing the 130-person committee and all aspects of the marathon and year-long fund raising effort.

“DanceBlue has given me the opportunity to give back to kids and families in a way I never thought possible,” Dempsey said. “Without being a doctor, nurse or oncology specialist I am able to help kids that suffer from the same illness that has taken some of my friends and peers in the past few years. It is a special opportunity to help these families and have a great time doing it.”


Michael Bricken, Family Relations Chair

Bricken, a senior biology major at UK, is a Lexington native and has worked on the family relations committee for three years. His main responsibilities with the position are to manage and coordinate the Adopt-a-Family program, plan the family Fall Festival and holiday parties and organize the family hours and activities at the culminating 24-hour marathon.


Emily Rentschler, Team Relations Chair

Rentschler is a senior secondary social studies major with a minor in anthropology and hails from Hamilton, Ohio. She has been involved with DanceBlue for the past three years. She started off as a morale team captain and last year she was the registration and recruitment coordinator. Emily and her team just finished fundraising for the dancers. This amount determines the amount of students we have on the floor. The teams and Emily did a great job fundraising, hitting dancer capacity in Memorial Coliseum for the first time!


Brittany Peskind, Public Relations Chair

Peskind, an integrated strategic communications senior, is from a western suburb of Chicago. Her involvement with DanceBlue started her first year at UK. For two years, Peskind danced in the marathon and last year served as vice chair for a committee. Peskind has been very busy spreading the word about DanceBlue to not only students but all over Lexington. She is so excited for DanceBlue this year but sad that she it will be her last year as a student. But she is thankful that there is a DanceBlue Alumni group that she can join!


Dave Lowe, Technology Chair

Lowe is a senior management major from Louisville. He has worked to integrate social and visual media into the marathon experience. He hopes to effectively replicate the marathon online, with the ultimate goal of sharing DanceBlue with the world.


Katie Foxworth, Programming Chair

Foxworth, senior family science major and grew up as an army brat. Foxworth has the responsibility of entertaining everyone for the 24 hours while keeping them motivated and teaching the line dance. You can find her working at Starbucks, or performing her eclectic Indie music at Common Grounds. She plans to work on staff at Christian Student Fellowship on UK’s campus as an event coordinator.

Kat Flynn, Operations Chair

Flynn, a senior integrated strategic communication major is from Paducah, Ky., and has worked with DanceBlue in many facets during her time at UK. Her main responsibilities as the operations chair is overseeing and planning what food will be provided at the event, organizing and managing volunteers, as well as creating a fun and exciting event for everyone with dancer and guest services. Kat plans to use her leadership and entertaining skills as she enters a rural Alabama classroom post-college working for Teach for America.


Priska Ndege, Promotions Chair

Ndege is a senior majoring in clinical laboratory sciences and international studies. Hailing originally from East Africa, Tanzania, Ndege currently lives in Louisville. The promotions team has been very busy throughout the year planning various events such as our Fall Blitz Week and the DB Homecoming 5K while also designing and marketing various merchandise that is for sale at the DanceBlue-tique. Ndege has been a part of every aspect of DanceBlue during her college career, ranging from a dancer to a volunteer.

“DanceBlue is by far one of the most treasured experiences I have had while being a student here at UK,” Ndege said. “From volunteering at the clinic to the late night preparations for the marathon, it has all been worth it; knowing that I’ve been able to touch numerous people while being in college is something that I will cherish forever. It’s all for the kids.”


Blake Willoughby, Corporate Relations

Willoughby is a senior accounting and economics major from Breckinridge County, Ky. After participating in DanceBlue his freshman year as a dancer, he has spent the subsequent three years serving on the corporate relations committee. He spends the bulk of his time with DanceBlue soliciting new corporate sponsorships for DanceBlue as well as maintaining a relationship with previous donors.

If you ask any student participating in DanceBlue why they do it, they will inevitably say “FTK – for the kids.” Their passion for the children and their families of the Pediatric Oncology Clinic is abundant. Meredith Nathaniel, whose son Crosby was diagnosed with cancer when he was just three years old, knows firsthand the impact DanceBlue has had on the clinic.


“When you hear, ‘your child has cancer,’ your world stops,” Nathaniel said. “It just doesn't seem possible. Crosby was diagnosed after a routine cyst removal in his nose in August 2001 was found to be a rare and aggressive cancer, Rhabdomyosarcoma. Scary, alone, worried, frantic - all describe some of the emotions we were feeling.”

“Crosby had an older sister starting kindergarten and a newborn baby sister at this time as well,” Nathaniel continued. “Needless to say, we were overwhelmed. We felt surrounded with amazing care from the oncologists at UK and with support from our church, family, friends and DanceBlue we navigated through the storm of pediatric cancer. Thankfully Crosby has been cancer free for three years and we pray that he will always be. DanceBlue still remains dear to our hearts. We continue to be amazed by the time, energy and enthusiasm each and every student puts towards finding a cure and caring for our kids! We love DanceBlue!”

The campus and Lexington community are encouraged and invited to participate in DanceBlue. At 7:30 p.m., anyone interested is welcomed to gather on Stoll Field to cheer on dancers as they enter the marathon. DanceBlue officially begins at 8 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum with a pep rally-like atmosphere and learning the 2011 DanceBlue line dance. Each hour of the marathon has a different theme, with coordinated music and activities.


At 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, DanceBlue honors the families and children of the clinic with a special family hour. Children and staff from the clinic share a talent show with the dancers. Then at 6 p.m., a special memorial hour begins to remember those that have lost the battle with cancer and to focus on those that are struggling now. At 7 p.m., team awards are handed out to dancers and just before 8 p.m. is the grand finale with the total fundraising amount revealed.

If you are unable to attend DanceBlue, you can watch it live streaming on the Web at You can also connect with DanceBlue via Facebook ( and Twitter ( Share your thoughts and encouragement with the dancers by using the hash tag #DB11 and #FTK on your tweets.

If you'd like to support DanceBlue financially, click here to make a donation.

DanceBlue 2011 - FOR THE KIDS!

MEDIA CONTACT: Katy Bennett, (859) 523-4639,