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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Dance marathon this weekend to benefit Project Kindle

Despite a week’s worth of sleep deprivation, Grinnell students will be dancing and grinding in Harris this weekend—this time, for a good cause.

Grinnell College Dance Marathon will take place tonight in the Harris Center starting at 8 p.m., lasting for 12 hours until 8 a.m. the following morning. The event will culminate the Dance Marathon Steering Committee’s year of fundraising and community outreach for Project Kindle, a non-profit organization that provides programs for those impacted by HIV/AIDS as well as youth education about HIV/AIDS.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that reduces the efficiency of the human immune system. In 2006, an estimated 1.1 million individuals in the United States were living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV/AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV transmission occurs when a mucous membrane or the bloodstream is exposed to a bodily fluid containing HIV, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk.

Camila Barrios-Camacho ’12, the leader of the Dance marathon Steering Committee, came up with the idea for an awareness-raising program about HIV/AIDS after volunteering at Camp Kindle, a therapeutic and recreational camp for children impacted by HIV/AIDS, during the summer of 2009.

“For me, it totally thawed my icy cold heart working at this camp and meeting all these people who were so positively impacted by an organization that wants to make it so that children develop in a happy, healthy, strong way,” Barrios-Camacho said.

Erin Fitzgerald, the national director for the organization SPEAK OUT– addressed the attendees at a talk in South Forum on Thursday. SPEAK OUT, which stands for “Sharing Personal Experiences and Knowledge: Our Unique Truths,” is a program that works with youth speakers infected or affected by HIV/AIDS designed to educate their peers. Fitzgerald spoke about her experiences with Project Kindle, her personal story and her hopes for the future of those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

“I think the event on Thursday is almost necessary to really appreciate the experience on Friday,” Barrios-Camacho said. “Having the speaker come in and talk about her experience with HIV and AIDS…she really attaches a lot of feeling and emotion to the story and I think they go hand in hand.”

Barrios-Camacho organized a steering committee of 12 students that came up with the year-long project with the goal of encouraging more openness and understanding about HIV/AIDS, a heavily stigmatized disease.

“People think that if you’re HIV positive and you’re a woman, then you’re promiscuous. If you’re a man, then you’re gay. Or you’re a drug user if you’re a man or a woman,” Barrios-Camacho said. “The notion of attaching stigma to a disease is I think something we all contribute to in some way and it’s something that has to be unlearned.”
Winnie Mulumba ’12, a member of Dance Marathon Steering Committee, explained that she appreciated the idea of a recreational event that also had educational value.
“People don’t feel comfortable talking about HIV/AIDS and they don’t really stop to think about why that is,” Mulumba said. “I’m hoping that everyone can come together and really think critically about an important issue facing our world today but also to have fun at the same time.”

The Dance Marathon Steering Committee modeled the event after Dance Marathons at other institutions. Barrios-Camacho looked to Northwestern University for example, which raised over a million dollars last year for Project Kindle during its Dance Marathon, hosted by Northwestern’s Student Government.

The Dance Marathon Steering Committee is already planning ahead for next year’s Dance Marathon. Barrios-Camacho said she hopes to be raise more money, have greater collaboration with Student Government and hold a campus-wide election to choose a beneficiary organization in the future.

Despite the Steering Committee members’ dedication to this year’s project, they experienced some bumps along the road.

Barrios-Camacho explained that the Dance Marathon Steering Committee had difficulty fundraising, educating and executing the project, partly due to the committee members’ inexperience with organizing a large event. The committee’s original plan of holding a panel discussion about HIV/AIDS fell through due to scheduling complications. As of this week, the committee has only been able to fundraise around $1,000—down from the initial goal of $10,000. Barrios-Camacho believes that this is in part due to the number of other fundraising efforts apparent on the campus this year—such as for the Haiti earthquake and the Booth family—as well as the economic recession.

However, Barrios-Camacho said that that this year, the main focus of Dance Marathon is not raising money but about spreading awareness of the event and gaining student support.

“More so than the money, I’m really hoping to see a lot of student participation,” Barrios-Camacho said. “For me personally, [if] at 7:30 a.m. I saw that there were 100 people still [at Harris], that would make the whole process worth it.”

Molly Miller ’13, another member of Dance Marathon Steering Committee, advocated the Dance Marathon as a better version of the weekly dances at Harris Center.
The Dance Marathon will have food, drinks, raffle, prizes, music and most importantly, Red Bulls for 12 hours of merrymaking.

“It’s like a 12-hour Harris where at the end of the night where they turn on the lights, kick you out and make you go home—that just doesn’t happen,” Miller said.
“I’m expecting a great experience,” said Elliot Karl ’12, who plans to attend the Dance Marathon. “It’s not often that you have dance parties that have a purpose behind them.”

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