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Choreographing Relationships to Benefit Young Patients

Donate and Support the Cause here for the All-Night March 28, 2015 Dance


By Nichole Stevens

For the Kids

Photo Courtesy of Julie Gillette

For Cate McCoy, student president of For the Kids@UTK, building relationships is the most compelling reason that motivates her to dance for the kids at the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Whether it’s getting to know the patients, their families, or the hospital staff that works around the clock caring for these brave youngsters, such relationships are bound to form.

Formally known as Dance Marathon, FTK@UTK operates to raise funds to benefit young cancer patients at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

McCoy built a special bond with leukemia patient named Savannah. McCoy, who joined FTK as a freshmen, and would visit Savannah multiple times a month.

“We formed a relationship and it didn’t require much of me to go to this clinic for an hour or two every week or every other week,” said McCoy. “She needed a mentor and role model.” Today, McCoy said, Savannah is finally cancer free and in remission. “That is life-changing, seeing someone come out of that, especially a teenager,” said McCoy. “That gives you the world, to get a message like that.”

“Our funds goes to paying for medical bills, surgical equipment and anything they need that couldn’t be purchased without our help,” said McCoy. “One day we would like to be able to raise millions to go to a new hospital wing.”

For the Kids2

Photo Courtesy of Julie Gillette

FTK@UTK engages in multiple fundraising events throughout the year, ending with their grand finale, an all-night dance celebration in March.  Joining others at the dance will be the UT pep squad, a visit from Smoky, DJs and many others. The goal for this year is to raise $40,000 that will support the oncology and hematology clinics at the children’s hospital. Eventually, FTK@UTK leadership members would like to integrate more active roles for the public, like bike-a-thons and 5Ks, that will help them meet their goals of reaching the million dollar threshold.

The grand finale event for this year, a circus-themed dance, will be held March 28 from 7 p.m.-7 a.m., an interval which represents the total hours worked in one nurse’s shift. “They dedicate 12 hours to the child, so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Julie Gillette, 7-year dance veteran and staff advisor to FTK@UTK.   McCoy said they used to stay up for 14 hours in honor of the total hour demand for chemotherapy. Students were able to experience a small portion of the endurance demanded of the kids, but not all students were able to stay standing for the whole 14 hours.

For the Kids3

Photo Courtesy of Julie Gillette

Gillette and McCoy both agree that the hospital staff have been incredible to work with. Gillette added that, although very welcoming, the collaboration between students and the hospital was not previously at its peak. An important turning point in the collaboration arrived when when Macy Brook, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Specialist, was brought in to help build up the program.

Previously, there had not been much direct contact between UT students and the hospital staff. “Then Macy came in and said ‘lets make this more of a partnership, ’” Gillette said. “She dove in head-first and has made all the difference.”

Since forming a more solid collaboration with FTK@UTK, students have learned more about the specific roles of the nurses and doctors working at ETCH and it’s become a team effort.

“It’s no longer a resume builder, it’s an emotional connection,” said Gillette.


For the Kids@UTK was nominated as a Partnership that Makes a Difference. Click here to read more.