By Sydney Sparks
"For me growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of giving back," said Brack Duncan, a University of Kentucky senior majoring in social studies in secondary education with a minor in political science.
A member of the Student Philanthropy Board, Duncan hopes to change student's perspectives about what philanthropy and service actually mean.
"Through the Student Philanthropy Board, I want to show students what they can do and that just because you're a student does not mean you can't change as many lives as someone like Bill Gates," Duncan said.
Since starting at UK, Duncan has done quite a bit of his own philanthropic efforts in the past year. He is one of the founders of the non-profit organization Buddies of the Bluegrass, a nonprofit corporation that partners with student organizations to coordinate events, like concerts, that raise money to fund special needs adoptions for Kentucky families.
Duncan started Buddies of the Bluegrass shortly after he competed in Kentucky's Got Talent, a philanthropy event organized by the Delta Delta Delta sorority, in April with his best friend Josh, who has Down Syndrome.
After the two competed in the talent show, they partnered with Shop Local Kentucky to raise money and awareness for Down Syndrome research. Shop Local Kentucky posted Duncan and Josh's dance video on its Facebook page, and for every time the video was shared, the store donated a dollar to Down Syndrome research. The video ended up raising over $5,000 in 24 hours.
Blown away by the amount of attention the video received, Duncan saw how one video could bring so much awareness to individuals with special needs. He even received dozens of messages from families all over the country thanking him for showing that individuals with special needs can do anything they set their mind to.
"So many parents of kids with special needs messaged me after seeing the video and told me that I have no idea how much this video meant to them and thanked me for showing that just because someone is labeled as special needs, doesn't mean they won't be able to do what others can," Duncan said.
The two buddies met when Duncan started working for STRIDE, a Winchester, Kentucky-based nonprofit that provides therapeutic recreation to individuals aged 16 and older who have a learning or developmental disability. At first, Duncan would spend a few hours every Friday with Josh, and they would take road trips together to Lexington or just go for a car ride and listen to music.
"Josh started to open up more and more as we kept hanging out and I opened up more too," Duncan said. "We really started to bond during car trips and road trips to Lexington and that is when things changed from a job to a friendship."
Since the start of the Buddies of the Bluegrass, Duncan has hosted several events to help raise money and awareness for individuals with special needs and adoptions. Most recently, he held a benefit concert for Buddies of the Bluegrass in early October that raised funds to help local families with special needs adoptions.
Duncan has a huge passion for adoption since four of his siblings were adopted through foster care. He hopes to continue to raise awareness for adoption and foster care, especially for local special needs adoptions in Kentucky.
For this rest of his time at UK, Duncan hopes to do even more philanthropic work for Buddies of the Bluegrass and even other nonprofits. His ultimate goal is to do more for others and help change lives.
"I always said I wanted to change the world," Duncan said. "Now I have really started to change my perspective from changing the world to changing someone else's world."
For more information on Brack Duncan and Josh, read their story on UK NOW.