A choreographed dance to “Burnin’ Up” by the Jonas Brothers kicked off UCLA’s 18th annual Dance Marathon.
The fundraiser’s first hour also featured an address by Pediatric AIDS Coalition President Melissa Miller, a fourth-year political science and Russian Studies student, who explained the theme of this year’s Dance Marathon: embrace. She said theme refers to both the physical act of holding and supporting those with the disease as well as embracing the work that still needs to be done to fight against HIV and AIDS.
Jake Rich, a first-year economics student, said he was looking forward to staying awake and on his feet for the entire duration of 26 hours.
“I want to learn more specifically about pediatric AIDS and the causes that I donated to. … You got to keep a positive mentality and know you’re doing it for the right reasons,” Rich said. “That will keep me on my feet.”
Awaken A Cappella established a positive tone early on in the event with a harmony-laced rendition of the national anthem and an upbeat mashup of “Isn’t She Lovely” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” Following the a cappella performance, the Morale Committee, comprising students whose job is to keep people enthusiastic throughout the event, taught the participants a step-by-step dance to “Burnin’ Up.” After perfecting each move, everyone performed the full dance together, keeping the energy in Pauley Pavilion high.
Isabella Ross, a first-year sociology student, said the fundraiser is an enjoyable charity event in the form of giant dance party. Additionally, she said AIDS is a life-threatening illness that seriously impacts many people’s lives, and the important cause makes the 26 hours on her feet worth it.
“I hope to learn the value of sticking things out even when you’re tired and you want to just go to sleep and quit,” Ross said.
Emma Stern, a fourth-year business economics student, said she was initially unsure of whether she would participate in Dance Marathon because as of one week prior to the fundraiser, she had not raised the $260 minimum. After talking to her friend in PAC, however, she said she better understood the cause and felt motivated to raise the money. He told her about the vigil, where children with HIV/AIDS speak about their experiences to Dance Marathon participants. Stern said she learned that in 1988 there were over 2,000 children born daily with pediatric AIDS, and as of 2015 there are only around 400 child cases a day.
“Having him sit down with me and tell me all about the true cause of dance marathon, not just dancing for 26 hours but why we’re dancing for 26 hours is what really convinced me to raise the money and participate today,” Stern said.