Dancers fundraise, fight AIDS

Feb. 13, 2012, 3:04 a.m.

More than 500 dancers, moralers and spectators gathered at the Arrillaga Alumni Center over the weekend for Stanford’s eighth annual 24-hour Dance Marathon.


The event raised $60,085.97 – a nearly 7.7-percent decline from last year’s total of $65,075.50 – to combat HIV/AIDS and support international awareness of the disease. As in previous years, dancers pledged to raise a target sum of $192 prior to the event.


FACE AIDS, an organization founded in 2005 by Stanford students, previously matched funds raised by Dance Marathon.


The event’s 2011 and 2012 fundraising totals both constitute significant drops from the 2010 high of $178,000, which Philip Tom ’12, Dance Marathon financial director, attributed to FACE AIDS no longer matching Dance Marathon’s fundraising total.


Ninety percent of Dance Marathon’s proceeds will go to Partners in Health (PIH), which will use the funds for a community health workers’ program in Rwanda. $192 represents the cost of training and paying a community health worker in Rwanda for a year.


“In lots of places, $50,000 – especially in healthcare – can’t get you that much,” Alex Coleman ’12, Dance Marathon’s overall director, said. “In some places like Rwanda, it is the difference maker. It gives mothers the chance to have their children live.”


The remaining 10 percent of funds raised will go to Bay Area Young Positives, a San Francisco non-profit organization dedicated to serving young people diagnosed with HIV and raising awareness of the virus in local communities.


Approximately 300 dancers – and 200 moralers, who support the dancers in three-hour shifts – registered for the event, a turnout similar to last year. While some registrants failed to show up at the event, event organizers commented on participants’ enthusiasm and cited particularly strong turnouts from freshmen and Greek societies.


“Those that show up actually stay,” Rachel Seeman ’14, Dance Marathon’s campus outreach director, said. “It’s really cool to see the bonding among the group that stays from 1 p.m. to 1 p.m.”


Seeman added that all funds raised go directly to Dance Marathon’s partners. Dance Marathon was funded partially through registration fees collected from dancers and moralers, but largely through ASSU special fees.


Kay Williams ’12 emphasized the contribution of freshmen – who constituted a majority of dancers – to the event, in particular citing the efforts of the freshman “Morale Committee” in mobilizing a group of participants that the event’s upperclassmen organizers find it harder to reach.


Differences from previous Dance Marathons included the introduction of a contemplation room, which featured materials on AIDS awareness and an “AIDS quilt.” The quilt included sections provided by members of the Stanford community who have had friends or family die of the disease.


Nineteen student groups – from Dv8 to the Stanford Band – as well as University administrators such as Dean of Freshman and Undergraduate Advising Julie Lythcott-Haims ’89, supported and entertained dancers throughout the night. Dancers were provided with snacks and meals, as well as the presence of paramedics in the case of any medical issue.


Code Jam


Elsewhere in the Alumni Center, approximately 30 hackers gathered for a 24-hour Code Jam held at the same time as Dance Marathon. The Code Jam shares resources and charity partners with Dance Marathon.


The event, now in its fourth year and organized by Code the Change, tasks participating hackers with programming for a number of non-profit organizations, with an emphasis on projects easily accomplishable within the 24-hour time frame. Coding tasks range from web development and web applications to specialized projects such as a collaboration with a Ugandan university on agricultural tracking.


Sam King ’12, Code Jam’s director, acknowledged that this year’s turnout was significantly lower than last year’s high of 65 participants, but attributed the drop to Code the Change’s decision to put on two events per quarter.


King approximated that the scheduling change would lead to a tripling in overall participant numbers without much additional cost or planning and the ability to scale the event to other schools.

“The reason we decided to step it up is that there was such a compelling demand for computer scientists who wanted to use their skills for social change – and also from non-profits who needed technical help,” King said.


In addition to raising around $10,000 from corporate partners, King pointed to the scarce nature of computer scientists – and the market price of their work – as evidence of the value added by events such as the Code Jam. He added that such events bring issues of social justice to computer science.


“Computer scientists need someone to show them the connection with social change,” King said. “We need to get rid of the stereotypes and show people that it’s about making the world a better place.”

Marshall Watkins is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily, having previously worked as the paper's executive editor and as the managing editor of news. Marshall is a junior from London majoring in Economics, and can be reached at mtwatkins "at" stanford "dot" edu.

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