Student Spotlight: Dancing for a Cure
In this Student Spotlight, Andrew Ho, fourth year student majoring in Psychobiology and serving a second term as Executive Director of the Pediatric AIDS Coalition (PAC), illustrates how being involved with this group and Dance Marathon have changed his life and inspired a career dedicated to fighting pediatric HIV/AIDS.
Fourth Year, Psychobiology
Executive Director, PAC
AIDS was first discovered at UCLA in 1981, ushering in an era of confusion, fear, and stigma surrounding a disease that was responsible for 1.7 million deaths last year alone. However, here at UCLA, we’re not satisfied just being the ones famous for discovering HIV/AIDS -- we want to be the ones known for ending it.
In 2002, 20 inspired Bruins decided that it was time to take action in the fight against pediatric AIDS and rallied 180 students to dance for 26 straight hours in UCLA’s first-annual Dance Marathon (DM), raising $26,000 for the cause.
Fast forward 12 years and we are now just two months away from our 13th Annual Dance Marathon. The event has transformed greatly throughout the years – we made the move from Tom Bradley International Hall to Covel Grand Horizon in 2003, to Ackerman Grand Ballroom in 2006, and this year, to UCLA’s historic Pauley Pavilion! Needless to say, we are incredibly excited for this exciting new change.
Since that first year, over 7,000 Bruins have completed this 26-hour challenge, collectively raising over $3.5 million dollars for our three beneficiaries, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Project Kindle, and UCLA AIDS Institute. We’ve grown from a committee of 20, to a planning body of 160 students, with 17 subcommittees. We’ve even expanded beyond DM itself! 4 years ago, DM leaders decided to transition Dance Marathon into the Pediatric AIDS Coalition (PAC), an expanded year-round effort that incorporates a direct-service model through events such as monthly mentorships, Life Skills Retreat, World AIDS Day at UCLA, and the “I Know” Campaign.
PAC and Dance Marathon have taken UCLA by storm. Dance Marathon at UCLA is now the largest student-run philanthropic event on the West Coast, and is the largest student-run fundraiser fighting pediatric AIDS in the world. This year alone, we have nearly 1,700 awesome UCLA Bruins registered and committed to an AIDS-free generation.
Dance Marathon embodies what I love most about the culture of UCLA – here, students aren’t satisfied with standing idly by, we aren’t content with just “liking a status” or “sharing a post” on facebook to raise awareness. Here, students are out on the front lines taking action and collaborating to make tangible differences in the world, every single day.
It is an awe-inspiring feeling to be at Dance Marathon and to watch 3,000 fellow Bruins commit to this 26-hour journey year after year in support of these children. Dance Marathon spans the spectrum of human emotions – in those 26 hours, you will dance, laugh, cry, hurt, make new friends, strengthen old friendships, and become even more proud to be a Bruin. In those 26 hours, while chairs and your bed may seem like a comfy heaven, when you are dancing alongside all of the children we support, all of the pain seems to disappear.
Now you may be wondering how students last for 26 whole hours of dancing. In reality, it’s not bad at all! The event is much more than just dancing – each three hours is broken up into one of 8 theme shifts, complete with crazy costumes, videos, “Color Wars” games, and competitions. We serve 5 full meals, present 8 cause-based activities, listen to 8 speakers, and watch 15 performers within those 26 hours as well. We even learn an annual “Morale Dance” that we perform in unison every hour. Tired of dancing? You can hang out with ambassadors at our Camp Corner, meet with Corporate Sponsors and earn free goodies at our Corpo Corner, see a portion of the AIDS quilt, craft memorabilia, and read about inspiring stories in the Cause Corner, or do morning yoga and zumba with our Entertainment committee.
Though 3am to 6am is often the most difficult time for dancers, watching the sunrise while dancing to Lion King’s “Circle of Life” will re-energize you for our “Bruin Pride” theme shift, which begins at 9am, complete with the UCLA Marching Band and one of the most glorious 8-claps you will ever be part of. However, nothing will prepare you for the 60 minutes of pure joy that is POWER HOUR. In the last hour of DM, you won’t be able to tell if it’s hour 1 or hour 26 – when the classic sing-along songs come our way, we dance like there’s no tomorrow.
Following those 26 incredible hours is tough, but there is always one number that quite literally sums up the thousands of hours of work put into this event. Each year, we close the event by revealing our fundraising total – in 2013, over 9,200 unique donors and corporate sponsors helped us raise $475,422.57 –100% of which was donated to our cause. Though there are so many unforgettable moments in each Dance Marathon, watching those numbers slowly be revealed may top them all. It is truly indescribable.
Dance Marathon would not be possible without the support of parents like you. Each year, we aim to cover every penny of our event costs through volunteer work and corporate sponsorship, so that 100% of what dancers fund raise goes directly to our beneficiaries. If you are in the LA area, we invite you to come experience the event by volunteering through the Parent & Family Association Volunteers. If you are interested in individual or event sponsorship, send an email our way to Emily Mathison, Director of Corporate Relations (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Find out more information at www.pediatricAIDScoaltion.org
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