LEXINGTON, KY. (WDKY-TV)-- The fancy footwork at DanceBlue is not just for kicks. Every hour on the hour for 24 hours, nearly one thousand University of Kentucky students hit the floor to raise money for pediatric cancer care. Their enthusiasm is contagious. Ten years ago, the scene inspired a seven-year-old girl who was watching from the stands with her father.
Elena Andrews was in the audience during "memorial hour," when images of children who have lost their battle with cancer are projected on a giant screen. Her younger brother, Charlie, was being treated for a rare blood disorder at the Kentucky Children's Hospital Hematology/Oncology Clinic. She asked her father if Charlie was going to die, like the children on the screen.
"I told her 'no.' Charlie's condition is different and we were lucky we didn't have to worry about that," said William Andrews.
Then Elena had another question for her dad.
"Did you donate?"
"I told her 'yes, I wrote a check when we walked in ,'" Andrews said. "Then she started crying."
When Andrews asked Elena why she was crying, she told him she was upset she didn't have anything to donate. Then, he said, he started crying.
The two went out for milk shakes and discussed what Elena could do to help. She decided she would set up a lemonade stand, which she did that summer during a yard sale. She raised about $200 for DanceBlue. She did it again the next year, with her parents matching her donations, and sent a check to DanceBlue.
The dance committee wrote her back in 2011 and invited her to come to the next marathon as an honored guest. It also invited her to set up a lemonade stand in Memorial Coliseum throughout the 24-marathon.
Now, Elena's Lemonade Stand is a fixture at DanceBlue. Her dad, mother Jessica, brother Charlie... as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins... all bring something to the table. It's covered with snacks, homemade cookies and crafts.
"That's what's beautiful here," Elena said. "Everyone putting in their little bit can change these kids lives in so many different ways. You get one thousand people putting in two or three dollars and you can save someone's life."
Nothing is priced. There's just a bucket on the table for donations. The family often finds 20- and 50-dollar bills wrapped inside one dollar bills.
The lemonade stand has raised more than $41,000 over the past eight years.
Elena's Lemonade Stand is not just in operation at this dance marathon. It can be found at the DanceBlue 5-K each fall, and she still sets up at yard sales. The Henry Clay High School junior is not sure where she'll go to college, but she is sure she'll always be at UK on DanceBlue weekend.
"I've grown up in DanceBlue. It's part of my identity. One of the things I'm proudest of--that I'm able to give back in this small way."