UK student, cancer survivor inspiring others through DanceBlue
UK junior Bradley Wilson has experienced the impact of DanceBlue firsthand – as a two-time pediatric cancer survivor. Now he’s leading the fight against cancer as part of DanceBlue’s student leadership.
DanceBlue is a year-long fundraising and volunteer effort that supports cancer research at the UK Markey Cancer Center, the families of children receiving treatment for pediatric cancer at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital DanceBlue Hematology/Oncology Clinic and the Golden Martix Fund. DanceBlue culminates in a 24-hour no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon held every year on the UK campus.
Most UK students learn about DanceBlue through friends on campus, sessions during orientation or by participating in one of the dozens of mini-marathons hosted by elementary, middle and high schools across the Commonwealth. For Wilson, however, his knowledge of DanceBlue comes from personal experience.
Wilson is a childhood cancer survivor and received treatment at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital DanceBlue Hematology/Oncology Clinic for the last time just a few years ago.
“Being a patient, it was really awesome having DanceBlue people around,” Wilson said. “Having friends at the clinic to just hang out and pass the time was a really big encouragement to me.”
From patient to supporter
Upon his arrival on campus, Wilson knew DanceBlue would be a big part of his campus experience. He has been involved with DanceBlue since his freshman year – dancing and serving on committee. This year, he’s taken on a bigger leadership role – the Family Relations chair.
As the DanceBlue Family Relations chair, he and his coordinators work with the clinic staff to make sure children in treatment enjoy their childhood despite their diagnosis. They are the face of DanceBlue in the clinic – the friends there to hang out with and encourage patients.
“To have that perspective on what it’s like to be a patient and to experience what they’re experiencing, but then also see how I can give and serve and try to make their lives a little bit easier is a unique position to be in,” he said.
Wilson, a chemical engineering major from Simpsonville, Ky., enjoyed seeing the Family Relations Committee volunteering while he was receiving treatment during his freshman year. Seeing college students come and support the patients receiving treatment made him want to participate in DanceBlue as soon as he could.
“I’m not sure that they knew that the support system they provide is vital to the journey to recovery. Empathy is a big part of it. There’s a certain level of understanding that comes with surviving cancer,” Wilson said. “Being able to say I’ve been in a similar situation, I’ve been through very similar things and I can understand to some extent what you’re experiencing, and that it’s okay to not be okay.”
‘For the kids’
The Family Relations team and other DanceBlue leadership volunteer their time in the clinic playing games, talking with families and engaging in the occasional Nerf gun war. The students do anything they can to make the children and families more comfortable while they’re receiving treatment.
“There’s so much that I love about DanceBlue,” Wilson said. “From being at the marathon seeing the talent show when the kids get on stage and perform to being in the clinic and getting to spend time with families and play games and goof off, it’s a lot of fun.”
The 2018 DanceBlue dance marathon begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, and ends at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18, at Memorial Coliseum on UK’s campus. Nearly 900 dancers will participate in DanceBlue 2018. The event is free and open to the public for the duration of the event. Spectators are welcome.
“One of the biggest things that we like to point out is that DanceBlue isn’t something that’s passed down from administration,” Wilson said. “DanceBlue grew from the student body, and that shows a lot about the people on this campus. For many people I’ve talked to that are on DanceBlue committee now, it was a part of the reason that they came to UK.”
DanceBlue unites students from all backgrounds, organizations and experiences for one common cause: the kids.
“Given the opportunity, I feel like I really have to give back,” Wilson said. “To me, I don’t see any other option.”