Parent Magazine

BU Students Dance (and Dance and Dance) for a Cause

Dance Marathon

Left to Right: Elias Fraija (SAR’14), Michelle Markle (SAR’12) (purple top), Emily Holden (SAR’14) (in back), and Kathryn O'Neill (CAS’14) (glasses). Photo by Vernon Doucette

By Corinne Steinbrenner

“When there’s a cure, we’ll dance for joy. Until then, we’ll dance for life.” That’s the fitting slogan for Boston University’s largest student fundraiser, BU Dance Marathon. Although the marathon itself is months away, event co-chairs Eric Si (COM’12) and Laura Leahy (SED’12) are already hard at work, hoping to make Dance Marathon 2012 the largest and most successful BU dance party yet.

The students aim to top last year’s fundraising total of $25,493, adding to the more than $300,000 BU students have raised to support pediatric AIDS organizations since Dance Marathon began in 2003. The funds they collect will be donated, as they are each year, to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and to One Heartland, a nonprofit group that sponsors summer camps for children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Dance Marathon annually draws more than 150 dancers (no experience required), each of whom raises at least $100 in sponsorship from friends and family. The dancers stay on their feet for the entire 18-hour overnight marathon, cheered on by “moralers” who raise at least $75 each and work in shifts to keep the dancers’ spirits high. “Staying on your feet is symbolic of the struggle these kids go through every day,” says Si.

While Dance Marathon is held in the spring, committee members work year-round to plan, train volunteers, secure sponsors, schedule entertainment, and promote the event. They also participate in AIDS-awareness activities, such as the free HIV tests they offered on campus last year. “The purpose of Dance Marathon is not only to raise funds to help both our foundations,” says Si, “but also to create awareness and educate our community about AIDS.”

How can BU parents support Dance Marathon? First, says Si, they can encourage their sons and daughters to participate. “We don’t serve alcohol, so it’s a fun, safe night,” he says. Parents can also sponsor individual dancers [or] encourage their employers to donate food or prizes for the event.

Even small donations make a big difference in the fight against pediatric AIDS, Si says. While pediatric HIV and AIDS are fairly well controlled in the United States, thousands of infants in less-developed countries are infected every day. According to Si’s colleagues at the Glaser Foundation, many of those infections could be avoided with just $15 worth of drugs and services for pregnant women. “It’s something that’s so tangible,” he says. “It’s something that can be done.” ■

Watch a time-lapsed video condensing all 18 hours of Dance Marathon 2011 into about two minutes.

Video by Jon Shedler

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