Jose Diego Escobar cried as he told the story of his aunt’s battle with AIDS to a crowd of more than 200 University of Minnesota students.
Escobar, 14, said after he talked about his aunt’s death, he was instantly comforted by the participants at the University’s 12-hour Dance Marathon on Saturday.
“They make me feel better; they cheer me up,” Escobar said.
The third annual dance marathon raised $8,000, said Evan Symons, co-president of the University’s Dance Marathon. A quarter of that amount was donated by the College of Science and Engineering, he said.
All of the money raised benefits One Heartland, a nonprofit organization for children affected by HIV/AIDS, and the University’s Amplatz Children’s Hospital.
Escobar has gone to Camp Heartland, a summer camp program organized by One Heartland, for the past three years. Camp Heartland allows youth living with or affected by HIV or AIDS to attend camp for free.
“It’s very important that it doesn’t cost campers anything,” said Nick Boerum, development manager for One Heartland. “About 80 percent of our kids who come to camp live in poverty, so they wouldn’t be able to afford a week of camp.”
Students attending the Dance Marathon, which was funded by the Minnesota Student Association, said knowing all of the money raised goes toward the organizations motivated them.
“We know it’s directly going to folks like the kid who spoke, which is pretty reassuring,” said Preston Bradley, chemistry and chemical engineering sophomore. “It validates why we’re here.”
Mick Hedberg, MSA facilities, housing and transit co-director, said funding the Dance Marathon is beneficial to the University community.
“Every dollar put towards this is a dollar well spent,” Hedberg said. “[MSA members] see how an event like this can drive a University’s culture.”
Hedberg said he hopes MSA and the Dance Marathon will have a lasting partnership for years to come.
Dance marathons are widespread in colleges and universities throughout the nation. At some schools, like Penn State University, more than 15,000 students participate in dance marathons and raise millions of dollars every year.
The University’s Dance Marathon is still relatively new to campus, but members are hoping it will grow throughout the years, said Callie Krummel, dance relations and morale co-chair for the Dance Marathon.
“Getting the word out has been the biggest thing,” she said.
Krummel said the marathon had about 150 participants last year.
“We have exceeded all of my hopes completely,” she said.
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