You’ve probably seen enthusiastic boys and cheerful girls in neon yellow UDance vests asking for small donations all over Newark, Delaware, as well as other local cities and even up and down the east coast. They’ve braved through the cold and the stormy, thanking donors liberally for their spare change – all in an effort to raise money for UDance 2017 and help fight childhood cancer.
The motivation and dedication of these University of Delaware co-eds is extraordinary. Week after week students take time out of their days to work on the UDance Dance Marathon to help raise money for The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, now the largest provider of financial assistance to families battling pediatric cancer in the nation.
Canning on street corners gets us all psyched up for the big event! And literally hundreds of students participate. But UDance is just one of many fundraising activities that help generate enthusiasm and awareness of what we do.
And I am proud to say that the students at the University of Delaware are one of the strongest teams of volunteers, turning out mind-blowing results. Each year the amount we raise breaks the previous year’s record. Last year we raised $1,701,667 for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, and this year we hope to surpass that!
UDance hosts events year-round that seek to raise awareness and funds while creating meaningful experiences for students and B+ Heroes, or children battling cancer. “B+ Hero” is a term coined from Andrew McDonough, whose blood type and attitude was be positive. When Andrew passed away in 2007, his family formed The B+ Foundation which went on to partner with UDance at the University of Delaware two years later.
The B+ Foundation now pairs B+ Heroes with student groups on campus to foster a “big brother/big sister” relationship between students and children who are fighting cancer. UDance supports 51 B+ Heroes here in Delaware and thousands more across the country, all of whom put a very real face to childhood cancer and serve as motivation for the students who dive into fundraising and help raise awareness. This mutually beneficial relationship leads to thousands of students uniting to stand alongside these children and encouraging them to keep fighting.
The first UDance Dance Marathon was held in a conference room designed to hold a maximum of 800 people and raised $8,000.
Ten years later, in 2016, over 100 student organizations at UD were involved in UDance throughout the year and 2,000 students participated as Dancers and Moralers. In total, over 6,000 individuals attended UDance 2016 throughout the day and raised a whopping $1.7 million – enough to financially assist 2,200 families across the country. The money UDance raises also funds critical, cutting-edge childhood cancer research studies that have already saved lives.
UDance hosts events and fundraising opportunities year-round, such as FTK (For The Kids) Tuesday’s, or local profit shares, where partnered restaurants agree to donate a percentage of sales. The organization sells merchandise and encourages the community to attend events that B+ Heroes are attending. The B+ Hero Holiday Party is a fan favorite – there is crafting, dancing and performing, jugglers and genuine time to bond with amazing children and their families.
An executive board made up of 61 UD students runs the show, with great help from special committees and coordinators. Two Co-Executive Directors head a total of 13 teams that range from Family Relations, Campus Engagement and Morale to Finance, Fundraising and Canning. The people I’ve met in my last two years on this executive board have been some of the most inspiring and bright people I’ve known at UD, and it’s no coincidence that they’re all a part of this, the largest student-run philanthropy on campus.
The hard work and countless hours put in leading up to the day of UDance hasn’t always come easy.
We, like many college students, get stressed and consumed by not only our UDance responsibilities, but jobs and classes we must maintain at the same time. When this happens, we remind ourselves that our work has meaning and that we can rely on each other and the strength of our community. We look around at the hard work each of you has put in over the last eleven years and realize why we do it: to make a change.
Relentless efforts and dedication is prompted by one simple idea: children should not die. We work together not as individuals, but as one body of people connected by a dream. We will exhaust every means possible until we no longer dance for a cure, but until the day we dance in celebration.
While there are some who may believe my generation is one that is less empathic than others and focused on instant gratification, I invite you to take a gander at University of Delaware students. Not only has UDance grown in their hearts, but it has become one of UD’s greatest hallmarks. UDance provides experiences for student leaders to grow in a way that each student can attest is literally life-changing. They go canning, send donation emails, use social media for fun ways to spread awareness and spend a great deal of time working to make UDance better every year.
It is true that for most, adopting a truly empathetic state of mind is far too painful. Apart from the difficulty of understanding what spending most of our lives in a hospital would be like, or to be forced to acclimate to nausea and other chemotherapy side effects, we simply want to look where the grass is greener. Instead of fearing the truth and harsh realities, we come together and find strength in hope. We hear stories from parents about children who have completely transformed due to their illness, yet when they come to UDance events they are dancing and playing with college students they can call their friends, brothers and sisters.
They still have a battle to fight, as they do every day, but for a few fleeting moments parents watch as their children smile and they, too, forget the dark times.
When one of our B+ Heroes wins a soccer game, we’re right there on the sidelines cheering him or her on. Sometimes, these children are too sick to leave the hospital, so we go to them with letters and toys and cheer. In the last three years, I have seen four B+ Heroes pass, but what I saw after is what tugs on my heartstrings. These children’s respective groups honor his or her life and share their memory across the entire campus. We feel their family’s pain as a community and face the harsh reality that pediatric cancer will continue to take lives every day.
The fight is long and difficult, and while our efforts culminate in celebration once a year, our greatest victory will be the day we no longer have to hold a dance marathon. One day, we will dance in celebration of a cure and the end of suffering. UDance became the fifth largest dance marathon in the nation because of the community’s fearlessness and ability to overcome adversity. The day we all can’t wait for, however, is the day dance marathons cease to exist.
We truly believe college students have the ability to end childhood cancer. We are built on a foundation of hope, unity, perseverance, and passion. Our work inspires thousands of people to raise awareness and funds to battle the vicious disease. By hosting engaging events year-round, we foster mutually motivational relationships between University of Delaware students and local families affected by pediatric cancer. We celebrate the hard work and dedication of our participants annually by hosting the nation’s fifth largest college dance marathon.
We are hopeful, we are relentless. We will find a cure for pediatric cancer. Until then, we put our own lives aside often enough to help make one child’s life better at a time.
If you would like to join UDance and the University of Delaware in the fight against pediatric cancer, please consider attending our annual dance marathon on March 12, 2017 at the Bob Carpenter Center from 9am-9pm. If you cannot attend but would like to support the organization with a donation, follow this link: https://www.udancede.org/bpos_donate.aspx?eventtag=ud2017&teamid=458