Even though finals are four months away, hundreds of Columbia students will not get any sleep this weekend. They will be spending 28 hours in Alfred Lerner Hall, Feb. 9-10th, as part of the second annual Columbia University Dance Marathon (CUDM) which will benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
After Elizabeth Glaser found out she contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion and passed it on to her children, she decided that something had to be done to address the AIDS crisis that specifically affected children. In 1988 she and two of her close friends started the foundation to support research on pediatric AIDS. Today the foundation works around the world to advance research and improve the quality of life for children with AIDS.
Last year, the Dance Marathon raised more than $100,000 for the Foundation, setting a national record for a first year Dance Marathon. Under the leadership of advisor Kyle Pendleton, fraternity and sorority affairs coordinator at Columbia, and Dance Marathon Chair Will Hunter, CC '02, the Steering Committee is working hard to ensure the success of this year's event.
"CUDM has truly given the Columbia community an event that is fun, unifying, and long-term," says Pendleton, "It is not a one day thing. Individuals and groups involved with CUDM work for months organizing fundraisers; they attend educational workshops on HIV/AIDS; and even have the opportunity to volunteer with kids. This all before the actual 28 hours of the Dance Marathon."
The 28 hours are hard work as well, with all of the dancers expected to stay on their feet for the entire time. To help them along the Steering Committee provides the dancers with plenty of fun and entertainment, as well as food and drinks donated by corporate sponsors, taking care of the dancers every need. There are also prizes and celebrity guests to keep things interesting. Previous celebrities have included the stars of "Party of Five," " Sex in the City," " Sister Sister," "Survivor" and "The Real World."
"I have been really touched by the large cross section of people who have donated to the marathon and really opened their hearts," says Hunter. More than 100 Columbia students, from all parts of the University, have made a commitment to raise money and dance in the Marathon. Together with their student groups and friends who will come to cheer them on this weekend, these dedicated students form the core of the Dance Marathon.
One example is Katie Romansky, CC '03, who raised $8,000 for the foundation as a dancer last year. As fundraising chair for this year's Marathon, she will use her expertise and enthusiasm to inspire this year's group of dancers. "For me, it is all about spending time with HIV positive kids," Romansky says, "seeing how the Foundation has helped them has really inspired me. Many of them would not be here without the work that the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation does." Before dancing last year Katie worked at Camp TLC, a summer camp for HIV positive children run by the Joey DiPalo AIDS Foundation. She also volunteers at the Incarnation Children's Center, a residence for children with pediatric AIDS in New York City.
The Dance Marathon provides an opportunity for the entire Columbia community to unite and work for an important cause. "It has been really exciting to have not only students, but deans and administrators tell me how excited they are for the marathon," said Will Hunter, "My hope is that people will use their experience with the Dance Marathon as a spring board for future involvement in community service."
With less than 52 hours to go till the big '28,' Kyle Pendleton reflected on his favorite moment from last year's Marathon. "The best part of the last CUDM was towards the end, hearing a mother, whose son is HIV positive, tell the packed auditorium that without events like CUDM and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, her son would not be alive. She thanked us for our efforts and joined in the celebration as the Steering Committee announced the total: $105,000 in cash and in-kind donations." This year he hopes that the marathon will be equally fun and successful, after all as the CUDM slogan says, "It's for the Kids."
The entire Columbia community is invited to attend students, staff, faculty, administration, and the Morningside Heights community. Tickets and a T-shirts for the marathon may be purchased at the Lerner Box Office throughout the weekend.