Last month, Patrick McSweeney, a UofL sophomore engineering student, posted on Facebook that he was finally coming home after spending the last 8 months in Cincinnati undergoing his second bone marrow transplant.

McSweeney, 19, has battled Leukemia since he was 5 years old.

“I finally got to come home FOR GOOD!!!” he wrote. “If I’m being completely honest though, these past 8 months were the worst I’d been through and absolute hell.”

But in true McSweeney style, his message quickly transitioned to the positive, and he detailed the brightest moments of his treatment, month by month.  

In July, the Cincinnati Reds gave him a bag of goodies, including a poster signed by the entire team. In October, doctors allowed him to attend a Bengals game, with precautions. In November, despite treatment setbacks that prevented him from going home for Thanksgiving, McSweeney was grateful to share ‘jello junk’ and sweet potato soufflé with his mom in the hospital.

McSweeney’s friends and family say it’s that kind of positivity, courage and drive to beat cancer, and be successful despite it, that defines him and inspires others. And that’s why so many are willing to give to raiseRED in his honor.

RaiseRED is UofL’s largest student run philanthropy and has raised $1.8 million over the last five years to support research and families fighting pediatric cancer and blood disorders.

UofL’s Patrick McSweeney at the 2018 raiseRED Dance Marathon

Last year, McSweeney raised $31,050 for raiseRED with a viral video, and delayed getting his T-Cell treatment in Philadelphia by a week so he could attend the 18-Hour Dance Marathon.

This year, he has raised $8,050 already, and is in the lead, on par again to raise more than any other individual participant in the Dance Marathon, which draws nearly a 1,000 students each year. He said he’s shared the link to donate online and through social media, encouraging people to give.

“It’s just been awesome,” he said of the response he’s received.

McSweeney says raiseRED means so much to him because he doesn’t want any other kids to have to go through what he has.

“I want to help others, so that no one else experiences what I’ve been through, no one has to relapse six times. One time is enough. They can be cancer free after one time,” he said.

Even though his immune system is still stabilizing from his recent bone marrow transplant, and he’s not allowed in crowds yet, his doctors are permitting him to attend the Dance Marathon Feb. 22-23, with strict precautions.

“They made this one time exception because they know how much it means to me and how much it meant to me last year and what a big deal it is,” he said.  

It’s a big deal too for so many raiseRED participants who are pulling for McSweeney.

 “…Around this time last year, one of my best friends, Patrick McSweeney, who has battled Leukemia on and off for most of his life, relapsed for the sixth time, and I saw his strength and passion, and what raiseRED meant to him, and it became so much more to me,” said UofL sophmore Allyson Fry, in a recent raiseRED video. “Getting to dance for and alongside kids like Patrick is why I dance.”

McSweeney, who is currently taking classes online, said he’s hopeful to return to campus and his Speed School cohort by this summer and put this long, hard year behind him.

The public is invited to take part in the Dance Marathon’s Community Celebration from 10:30 a.m. to noon Feb. 23 in the SAC, which culminates in the grand reveal of the total number of dollars raised. Kids and families from UofL’s pediatric cancer clinic, who benefit from all the monies raised, will be on hand to celebrate.

Be the Match will be there too to encourage people to get involved with their mission to treat life-threatening blood cancers, like McSweeney’s, through marrow transplants.

Patrick McSweeney’s health improved enough to allow him to come home for several days at Christmas to celebrate with his family
Niki King
Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.