Written by Erin Dunne, Athletics Media Relations Student Intern

As Delaware student-athletes battle their rival colleges daily on the playing surface, they are also fighting a different kind of opponent: childhood cancer.

The Blue Hens have joined in the fight against childhood cancer and have paired with The Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation in adopting “B+ Heroes,” children who currently are, or have, battled cancer.

UD student-athletes not only support their heroes daily, but recently took part in the University of Delaware’s 12-hour dance marathon, UDance, which benefits the organization.

The women’s lacrosse team was the first to adopt a B+ Hero with Abby Supplee and four other squads following suit and uniting in the fight against childhood cancer by adopting their own heroes. 

To date, Delaware athletics programs have adopted eight heroes.

The impact of honoring these heroes during UDance will leave lasting memories.
 “UD Athletics is such a great outlet for these kids, as well as the other organizations involved, because it shows that it doesn’t matter your strength, you can always be part of a team,” commented Julie Denhoff, UDance Co-Executive Chair.

This past March 22, UDance crushed a school record and raised nearly $1.3 million for the cause, making the $430,000 jump from last year the biggest in school history.

And Delaware’s athletes were there along the way.

Eighteen of Delaware’s 21 NCAA Division I teams were represented at UDance that Sunday, with three teams away in competition. 

During the UDance B+ Hero Talent Show, the women’s basketball team stood behind their hero, Steph, as she belted out the lyrics to Frozen’s “Let it Go” and then danced alongside their second smiling hero, Michayla, with their rendition of the “Chicken Dance.”

The women’s lacrosse team put together a synchronized dance that placed their hero Abby right in the center of the pack as they danced around her, pretending to take pictures of her to the song “Hey Ya.”

Danny, the football team’s hero, jammed his way across the stage among the players to “Billie Jean,” as the crowd and his fellow teammates cheered him on.

The Delaware athletes involved inspire these young children to look past their fight and have provided uplifting support to families involved with the B+ Positive Foundation.

“It lets me talk to other people who enjoy the sport like I do,” says Colby, baseball’s 15-year-old hero.

His mother, Virginia, continued, “The team has been very supportive, some of the guys have come down during his treatment; they send positive thoughts and support as he goes through this roller coaster ride of his bone marrow transplant.”

Recognizing the magnitude of fighting childhood cancer is not simply beneficial to the children, it is beneficial for the athletes who partake as well. UDance is not the only event these athletes get involved in to support the fight against childhood cancer.

The women’s basketball hosted a B+ game on March 1with a half-time parade that honored all the beaming heroes as they walked around the court.

Women’s lacrosse also held a B+ game this past weekend, which included specially designed yellow uniforms by adidas. 

Blue Hens baseball recently put together a calendar featuring action shots of the team and Colby at practice, in the weight room and on the field to raise money for the B+ cause.

“It’s a great opportunity for all for the kids, all of the heroes, from the various teams to come together at one time and it’s a great opportunity for our student-athletes to get out there with them,” Athletics Director Eric Ziady states on the importance of hosting events.  “You can see the connection that’s there between the heroes and the teams.”

Women’s basketball sophomore Hannah Jardine also shared her feelings on the impact that the heroes make on their teams.

“We come out here everyday, trying to win a basketball game, but when you’re playing for something so much bigger, you realize how many actual struggles people go through in the world,” remarked Jardine.  “We think about little problems that we have and then realize, in the grand scheme of things, those are not even close to being important.”

Her words are reflected in Ziady’s sentiments on the importance of getting athletes involved in UDance and B+ Positive.

“Our mission here is to develop leaders academically, athletically and socially,” Ziady said.  “Community service and working with endeavors like the B+ Foundation certainly help their social growth.”

The involvement in a cause that is bigger than themselves is certainly evident in the impact it has had on the student-athlete community.

Ziady shared, “What it does is open their eyes to not only to what that particular child has gone through, but how they and their status as a student-athlete is seen through the eyes of the child. To see some of the kids’ eyes light up when they’re around the teams and the players, I think that really resonates with students-athletes in terms of the impact they can have on a child.”

The impact Delaware Athletics has had on UDance and B+ Positive overall is evident in Denhoff’s appreciation of their expansion of the cause.

“It’s great because we’re getting another audience that doesn’t necessarily know about UDance,” commented Denhoff.  “We want to get everyone on campus and in the state of Delaware knowing what UDance is and knowing what B+ Positive is, and knowing who these heroes are, so that they are celebrities in their own way.”

Clearly, in a mutually beneficial process, the entirety of Delaware Athletics has enabled student-athlete celebrities and childhood cancer fighters to utilize their status to stand together in one single battle.