Dancers toughed out 10 straight hours of dancing in the Draw Hope Dance-a-thon to raise more than $8,000 for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation on Saturday, in Davenport Dining Hall.
The event, inspired by UCLA’s annual 26-hour dance-a-thon, was a senior project for University of La Verne students Jillian Peña and Michelle Ajemian, who are both public affairs majors.
“I thought it would be a cool senior project,” Ajemian said. “Everybody loves dancing and having a good time; and it’s for a good cause.”
The dance-a-thon served as the kick off for a week of competitions among Greeks, as organizations competed for Greek Week points based on the amount of money they raised and the amount of members they had in attendance.
“We wanted to do it with Greek Week, not only because people get excited about Greek Week, but also because the Greek organizations are involved with service, and this was essentially a big service project,” Ajemian said.
Involving the Greek organizations also led to a large turnout of over 250 people, which mostly consisted of Greek members, but also of supporters who came to dance with their Greek friends and cheer them on.
“I do not think the turnout would have been as good if it had not been part of Greek Week,” Peña said.
To pass the time and to get into the competitive spirit of Greek Week, there were small competitions held every hour between the six different organizations, including a game of Twister, a dance competition, a fashion show and a donut-eating contest.
The winning organization, Phi Delta Theta, received a $100 donation to the charity of its choice.
Ajemian and Peña also led a “morale dance” to celebrate every two hours of dancing and keep the energy at a high level.
To keep participants awake and energized, they had a large variety of snacks throughout the night, including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pretzels, fruit, candy, granola bars and muffins.
These snacks only worked for so long though. When dancers got their five minute stretch break every two hours, everyone dropped to the floor in exhaustion.
“I haven’t stayed up this late in a long time,” freshman Sarah Sandoval said.
What kept most participants going was the idea that they were supporting a meaningful cause.
“It’s important for our students and everybody to be aware that these issues exist and there are things we can do to help,” sophomore Roddy Cobb Jr. said.
To remind students why they were dancing, a slideshow was shown halfway through the dance, which showed pictures of children with AIDS and told their stories.
Approximately 2.5 million children lived with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in the year 2007.
“These children are born with AIDS,” Peña said. “There is nothing they did to deserve it.”
Students were even more inspired to persevere after watching the slideshow and being reminded of how important the cause was.
“At some point it is good to do an unselfish deed and give back to somebody; you never know when you might need someone to help you out,” sophomore Evelyn Castro said.
Students also became aware of the difference they could make just by being careful in their own actions.
“I think it’s good for anybody to get involved, especially people at such a young age who are sexually active,” sophomore Alexa Shugart said.
Along with a philanthropic cause, Ajemian and Peña also added fun elements to the dance, such as hourly raffles and a decade theme for every two hours.
At the change of each “decade,” the DJ would mix in songs from that time period along with modern songs to help break up the night with different types of music.
He also played songs to get everyone dancing together, such as the Macarena, the Cha-Cha Slide and a country song for everyone to do the Electric Slide.
“I think everyone was tired and their feet hurt, but I think everyone was proud of themselves at the end,” Ajemian said.
Even though it was difficult to keep going, students endured and continued to dancing to help the cause.
Despite their great accomplishment, the only thing students were focused on at the end of the event was getting back to their rooms for some much needed sleep.
Most of the students were too exhausted to make it to the breakfast the next morning and slept for most of the day..
Only 12 participants lasted for the free pancake breakfast at 8 a.m the next day.
The dance brought out the spirit of competition for Greek Week, but more importantly, it opened students’ eyes and encouraged them to help people in need.
“If we all come together, just imagine the difference we could make for all these kids,” sophomore Brittany Gorski said.
For more information on the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation and Pediatric AIDS, visit www.pedaids.org.
Jamie Ondatje can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.