Dance Marathon raises money for Haiti, AIDS awareness

More than 1,000 students and community members–and at least one Teletubby–are putting up their feet today after dancing for this weekend’s 24-hour Stanford Dance Marathon.

Dancers, “moralers,” hackers and observers gathered in the Arrillaga Alumni Center Saturday and Sunday for the sixth annual event; together, with matching funds from FACE AIDS, they raised about $178,000 for HIV/AIDS philanthropy.

More than 1,000 Stanford students and community members danced for 24 hours straight on Saturday and Sunday to raise money for relief efforts in Haiti and local charities promoting HIV/AIDS awareness. (DYLAN PLOFKER/Staff photographer)

Advertised through the year as campus’ “biggest and longest party,” the fundraiser also featured the second annual 24-hour Stanford Hack-a-thon, where computer science students gear their programming knowledge toward specific public service projects.

Funds raised during the 24-hour period are set to benefit Partners in Health, a four-year beneficiary, and Bay Area Young Positives.

Dancers agreed raise a minimum of $192 each ahead of the marathon; the proceeds are matched by FACE AIDS, a non-profit founded by Stanford students with which the event has partnered since 2008.

Partners in Health will receive 90 percent of the money raised by Dance Marathon participants, organizers said. The non-profit organization addresses health-related needs of communities in Haiti, Rwanda, Russia, Peru and Boston.

This year, marathon organizers said, Partners in Health will choose where to direct the funds–likely toward Haiti.

“Usually our donations go specifically toward comprehensive health care reforms in Rwanda,” said Gino Mazzoti ‘10, Dance Marathon’s communications director. “This year we are leaving allocation of funds up to PIH’s discretion; the money we donate will go to the places that need it most at present…that could mean that PIH uses our money to aid relief in Haiti in light of the recent disaster.”

The remaining 10 percent of Dance Marathon’s proceeds will go to a San Francisco non-profit organization, Bay Area Young Positives, to aid efforts to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in local communities and provide services to local 14- to 25-year-olds living with the virus.

Hack-a-thon also contributed to the service atmosphere surrounding the weekend. The project, now in its second year, has grown substantially from its inaugural event.

According to organizer Sam King ’12 in an e-mail to The Daily, 2010 saw about 70 hackers, up from 30 in 2008.

“The event as a whole is a way for people to be a part of a community engaged in public service…the dancers do this through fundraising, and the hackers do this through coding,” King said.

One coding project this year involved work with the organization Sirum and aims to reduce medical waste by facilitating the movement of excess medical supplies from rich hospitals to free clinics.

Hackers and dancers were joined throughout the night by high-energy moralers: students who sign up to dance for three hours at a time to boost spirits.

About 19 Stanford student music and dance groups and occasional curious observers stopped by to show support their dancing friends.

“It’s wonderful to see all the energy out on the dance floor,” said moraler Dylan Kim ’12. “I’m here because it’s an exciting event, and it’s great to see such a huge percent of our campus taking part in the worldwide issue.”

Clay Ramel ‘12, a community relations executive for Dance Marathon, put the night into perspective.

“I think people keep dancing because they feel empowered when surrounded by a lot of other people that care about the prevention of HIV/AIDS,” Ramel said. “It really speaks to the idea of solidarity, as overused as that word is. As a community we’re banding together.”

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