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April 10, 2017

Ross Stanton, a third-year law student at the University of Kentucky College of Law, recently used his passion for wood burning to raise hundreds of dollars to help fight pediatric cancer.

Stanton auctioned off two handmade barrel tops to support DanceBlue – a yearlong fundraising effort, culminating in a 24-hour no sitting, no sleeping Dance Marathon right in the heart of UK’s campus.

A couple years ago, Stanton started wood burning as a hobby. He began by making pieces for friends and family and eventually started selling them. After a while, he came up with the idea to burn designs into barrel tops. So, when Stanton sat down with second-year law student Gentry Collins to discuss ways for the UK Law DanceBlue team to raise money, the dots connected.

“We hoped people would be interested since Kentucky is the birthplace of Bourbon, and the barrel tops would bear a permanent graphic representing an important chapter of our lives – law school. We thought it could be a nice memento to hang in an office or at home,” said Stanton.

Students, faculty and staff members at UK Law answered the teams’ call to action by placing bids. After three-days of silent auction bidding, the winners were announced. Trevor Nichols, a second-year law student, won the first barrel top bearing the UK Law logo and a vintage wildcat. Mary Tanner, a third-year law student, won the second, customizable barrel top. In addition to the UK Law logo, it bears her name and class year. Each barrel top came stained, finished, and ready to hang.

“Toward the end, bidders came flooding in,” said Stanton. “I'm sure the results would have been different if the money wasn't going to something like DanceBlue. Bidders might not have had that extra nudge to write down a number that would otherwise go to something like casebooks or rent. That nudge, it seems, comes from empathy and a good heart. I'm thankful to be surrounded by people who feel it.”

The money raised by the team contributed to this year’s record total of $1,785,286.96. All of the efforts support the DanceBlue Kentucky Children’s Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic through the Golden Matrix Fund.

Stanton first learned about the cause as an undergrad, and a year later, decided not to sit or sleep as he boogied in Memorial Coliseum during his first DanceBlue marathon – the most successful student-run philanthropic event to date.

“It's one thing to hear ‘childhood cancer,’ sympathize with it, and then resume your healthy life; it's another thing entirely to see it and completely immerse yourself in it, devoting the entirety of your energy truly connecting with it,” he said.

Participating in DanceBlue was a life-changing experience for the Kentucky native, one that set off a chain reaction of giving. Afterwards, Stanton applied and received a spot on the DanceBlue Family Relations Committee. As a committee member, he visited the Clinic weekly to spend time with children and their families. He built relationships with patients through different activities, such as game play and arts and crafts.

“They were all so sincere and had the best attitudes,” said Stanton. “It was incredibly humbling – the type of experience that makes you stop complaining about a 20-page reading assignment.”

Fortunately, Stanton has been able to maintain relationships with a lot of the children and families through a summer camp devoted to providing a memorable childhood experience for kids with cancer.

With plans to graduate in May, Stanton’s time at UK is quickly coming to an end. He will pass the torch and leave the UK Law DanceBlue team in good hands, preparing for next year’s fundraising efforts.

“DanceBlue and the fight against childhood cancer has become a part of who I am. I'm sure I'm not alone. Many, if not all of us, have probably been affected by this terrible injustice in some way. Unfortunately, it's almost a certainty. DanceBlue is there to change that.”