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Pediatric AIDS Coalition starts Dance Marathon back in person at Pauley Pavilion

A group of students stands on stage at Pauley Pavillion for the Dance Marathon 2023. At noon Saturday, the event – which is organized by the Pediatric AIDS Coalition at UCLA – returned to its roots with a 19-hour event that will conclude 7 a.m. Sunday. (Alice Yang/Daily Bruin)

By Maya Vibhakar

April 8, 2023 4:37 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Jack Colby is a fourth-year biology student. In fact, Colby is a fourth-year integrative biology and physiology student.

This post was updated April 9 at 6:22 p.m.

The Pediatric AIDS Coalition at UCLA is beginning to groove for a good cause as its Dance Marathon kicks off at Pauley Pavilion.

This Saturday, PAC is hosting its annual Dance Marathon fundraiser, which runs from noon Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday. Though the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the event to the outdoor Drake Stadium last year, this weekend’s Dance Marathon is back in Pauley Pavilion as PAC’s first full-scale event since 2019. For 19 hours, students will take a stand against pediatric AIDS by staying on their feet throughout – all while raising funds for the cause.  

“The whole purpose of the event is to raise money, educate and destigmatize HIV and AIDS,” said Naomi Crocker, a fourth-year psychobiology student and PAC’s executive director of logistics. “(We also) make space for those living with the illness or organizations supporting research…to come and share their efforts.”

Throughout Pauley Pavilion, PAC set up a variety of interactive booths and pop-ups for dancers to check out during the 19-hour stretch. In addition to games, raffles, free food and live music, participants can also register to vote, get tested for HIV and write letters to state representatives about the cause, said Jack Colby, a fourth-year integrative biology and physiology student and PAC’s director of cause engagement.

Inside the arena, the central area has been converted into a dance floor filled with students ready to dance for charity. Over the next few hours, the stage will be filled with different performances, including student bands such as Lot 3 and Minor Car Accident. A variety of different guests are also invited to speak at the event, including nonprofit leaders, politicians and children who have been directly affected by HIV, Colby added. 

Students in colorful outfits dance on the floor of Pauley Pavilion. Throughout the event, a variety of speakers, musical performers and booths will be available for attendees as they dance to raise money to combat pediatric AIDS. (Alice Yang/Daily Bruin)

In order to bring an event like Dance Marathon to life, PAC relies on the dedication of its 140 members, Colby said. Because of the event’s scale, the members started planning for this year’s Dance Marathon immediately after last year’s ended, said Sasha Avakyan, a second-year computational and systems biology student and PAC’s director of publicity. 

“The best part about it (Dance Marathon) is seeing it come together and seeing how much effort leads to such an amazing event,” she said. 

After a lively a capella performance, PAC’s morale team – a group of members tasked with keeping the spirits up among the participants – hit the stage, running out to funky introduction videos set to songs such as “Hey Ya!” and “Evacuate the Dance Floor” that played on the jumbotron and served to energize the crowd below. The team then taught the dancers the morale dance, a choreographed sequence to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” that they will do at the top of every hour. Once the participants mastered the dance, they were then sorted into their respective teams, which compete to raise the most money by the end of the night. 

Fundraising is essential in the fight against pediatric AIDS, Colby said. Although there are resources to end the AIDS epidemic, he said, many people cannot afford associated treatments or medication, especially if they are part of at-risk communities, which is why each donation goes a long way.

“$5 is enough to provide a mother with a monthlong of treatment for HIV,” Colby said.  “$20 is enough for a yearlong treatment plus HIV testing and a little bit of medication for the child.”

Each dancer is challenged to raise $190 before the end of Dance Marathon, but many surpass the donation goal. Hayden Jackson, a second-year biochemistry student, said he joined Dance Marathon to support his friends in PAC and the cause and was on track to hit the donation goal by Sunday. 

Fourth-year English student Brian Cloutier said he already surpassed his goal and was excited to dance to the music during his final Dance Marathon at UCLA. Crocker said that PAC is hoping to receive as many donations as it can during Dance Marathon this year.

“We’re looking to raise more money than last year, which was $112,000 our first year post-COVID. … Our goal, of course, is as much as we can get,” Crocker said. “We want to shoot for the stars.”

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Maya Vibhakar
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