Dance Marathon raises funds for Rwanda clinics

Feb. 14, 2011, 3:04 a.m.

In what has become an annual tradition at Stanford, more than 500 dancers, hackers, moralers and observers packed into the Arrillaga Alumni Center this weekend for the 24-hour Dance Marathon. The event strove to raise AIDS awareness and fundraise money to battle the disease in Africa.

Dance Marathon raises funds for Rwanda clinics
With a focus on staying for the entire 24 hours, dancers at Stanford's Dance Marathon kept going well into the night. Roughly 90 percent of the dancers were freshmen, with upperclassmen acting as "moralers" to encourage the dancers. (ANNA MARIA IRION/The Stanford Daily)

Dance Marathon’s final fundraising tally was $65,075.50, well short of its stated goal of raising $100,000. The drop from last year, when $178,000 was raised, comes largely because FACE AIDS is no longer matching Dance Marathon’s contributions.

“In the past, [FACE AIDS] has been able to match, dollar for dollar, what our dancers raise,” said Anand Habib ’11, one of Dance Marathon’s co-directors. “Unfortunately, this year they weren’t able to do that. We had to take on that extra burden of pushing ourselves to really hit our goal.”

As in years past, dancers pledged to raise $192 prior to the event. Ninety percent of Dance Marathon’s proceeds go to Partners in Health, which will use the funds for a community health workers’ program in Rwanda. This represents a change from previous Dance Marathons, where the money raised went to a variety of Partners in Health projects. The remaining 10 percent will go to Bay Area Young Positives, which provides support to HIV-positive young people.

“[Partners in Health] is taking the people who are members of those communities, who know all of those people who are being affected by HIV/AIDS and utilizing them as employees of their hospitals,” said Stephanie Morrison ’11, another co-director. “They identify the community health workers, they cultivate that relationship and then they send those workers out after they’ve trained them.”

Morrison added that the $192 contribution represents the amount of money required to train one health worker and pay their salary for a year.

On the other side of the Alumni Center was the “Hackathon,” which is now in its third year. Approximately 65 hackers worked on 15 projects, mostly to benefit nonprofit organizations. Unlike the dancers at Dance Marathon, the programmers participating in the Hackathon didn’t raise money prior to the event—rather, they participated in projects ranging from biomedical research to helping recycle medical supplies. The monetary equivalent of Hackathon’s services totaled $67,200, higher than the amount raised by the dancers and moralers.

According to Sam King ’12, one of Hackathon’s directors, the goal of the event was twofold: to provide direct services to worthy causes and to connect hackers to the possibilities for public service in computer science.

King emphasized that, while Hackathon and Dance Marathon may seem to share little in common other than a public service focus, the connection between the two events is very important.

“This is a 24-hour dance party, so there’s clearly a lot of energy in the atmosphere,” he said. “There’s a lot of cooperation with Dance Marathon…our sponsors all go into the same account, so when an organization sponsors us, they sponsor Dance Marathon as a whole.”

This year’s Dance Marathon turnout saw a significant decrease from last year’s numbers, which totaled approximately 1,000 students. Morrison attributes this drop to a renewed focus on keeping dancers at the marathon for the full 24 hours. Previously, many dancers would only stay for a short time or not come at all.

Though having fewer dancers makes it more difficult to raise funds, Morrison explained that focusing on retention served Dance Marathon’s goal of promoting awareness of HIV/AIDS among students.

“We wanted to have an event with us symbolizing what people go through with HIV/AIDS—the hardship of standing 24 hours,” she said. “Wanting to make sure our dancers are here for the full 24 hours leans more toward the awareness side of things. It can be debated which is more important, but I think that this year it was very important for us to make sure everyone was fully engaged with the cause.”

Habib explained that changes in the registration process could also be a factor in halving the number of participants. In the past, student only had to fill out a form when they signed up for Dance Marathon and had the option of paying the $15 registration fee later. This year, they were required to pay the fee upfront.

“We were working with a slightly tighter budget, so we didn’t have the luxury of separating the two…that’s probably the key factor in why it’s half of what it was last year,” Habib said.

“What we’re doing today, over the 24 hours, is an act of solidarity,” he continued. “When you hit a critical mass of people and you get that much energy in the room, it’s more fun for everybody.”

Kabir Sawhney is currently a desk editor for the News section. He served as the Managing Editor of Sports last volume.

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