Students to dance away 12 hours for charity

The event will raise funds for a national pediatric HIV/AIDS program.

Raya Zimmerman

This Saturday, fundraisers will log a cumulative 1,200 hours of charity work by busting their moves for a worthy cause.
More than 22 groups and 100 dancers are gearing up to dance for 12 hours straight at Dance Marathon. Previously known as the Dance Your Heart Out dance marathon, the event will raise money and awareness for pediatric AIDS and HIV by featuring live music, DJs and other entertainers.
In its first three years, the dance marathon was widely attended by University of Minnesota students but organized by One Heartland, a national program that provides outreach and summer camps for families and kids who face social isolation as a result of their HIV and AIDS status.
This year, students have taken over the initiative and brought it to campus.
Elise Adair, University alumna and communications and outreach manager at One Heartland, said organizing the fundraiser was becoming too strenuous so they reached out to their most active students.
The marathon, to be held in the ballroom of the Radisson University Hotel on Washington Avenue Southeast, requires students to form a group and pay $100 to benefit One Heartland.
Last year, the event hosted more than 600 supporters at the Mall of America and fundraised upwards of $40,000.
Participants can raise the money or pay out of their pockets. One group, the College of Liberal Arts Student Ambassadors, sold baked goods and coffee in Johnston Hall last Thursday. They have also invited supporters through e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.
Kari Kopf, captain of the nine-member student ambassadorsâÄô dance team, said her group was looking for ways to get involved and give back to the community. She said the event will be a good opportunity to connect with other students and groups on campus.
Before this year, the University was the only Big Ten school not to have its own dance marathon. This year, Penn State raised $9.6 million dollars to fight childhood cancer.
Jessica Hermanson, a senior and co-director of this yearâÄôs Dance Marathon, said she would like Dance MarathonâÄôs popularity and impact to match that of Relay for Life âÄî which attracted 2,400 participants and raised more than $202,000 last year âÄî in order to augment the UniversityâÄôs philanthropic work for the community.
Three summers ago, Hermanson volunteered at one of One HeartlandâÄôs three camps in Willow River, Minn., in what she called a difficult but rewarding experience. She recalled an incident of a 6-year-old boy who was asked by a counselor to draw a picture. Hermanson was shocked to see he had drawn himself in jail.
âÄúI know that jail is the only safe place,âÄù the boy said, according to Hermanson. âÄúThere are too many knives and guns in my house.âÄù
Hermanson said the camps not only provide a healthy environment to provide community and support but they also offer respite for 80 percent of the campers who live below the poverty line.
âÄúDance Marathon will encourage people to go volunteer at these camps,âÄù she said.
Ryan Howard, co-director with Hermanson and a University graduate student, said the event will not only connect students with the campus but also will engage them with the surrounding community.
âÄúFor me as a college student, I donâÄôt think thereâÄôs anything cooler or more admirable you can do with your time than really take some time out and support a cause that goes to benefiting children in your area.âÄù
Registration is open to the public until the eventâÄôs starting time at 10 a.m. on March 5.