Dance Marathon 2021 goes virtual with a week of HIV / AIDS awareness events

This year’s dance marathon is an hour shorter than last year, but the experience lasts five days longer.

Hosted by the Pediatric AIDS Coalition at UCLA, the annual event will be held virtually for the second time on Saturday. Although the physical event at the Pauley Pavilion typically lasts 26 hours, organizers have adjusted its layout to include Take a Stand week, a week full of activities. for students which ends with the three hour live dance marathon over the weekend. Emma Paine, president of PAC and fourth-year human biology and society student, said they decided to scale up the events to maximize engagement to educate attendees and raise funds for their cause.

“We’ve done everything we can to make it as multifaceted as possible and to create opportunities for everyone regardless of their interests,” Paine said. “We really feel like there are opportunities for engagement at all levels, whatever your goal to get out of this week.”

[Related: Dance Marathon 2020 moves online with a focus on themes of unity and awareness]

The week The event aims to educate UCLA and the wider Los Angeles community about the impacts of HIV / AIDS by advocating and fundraising for local and international organizations, said Lily Emerson, director of community relations for PAC. Although the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is the primary beneficiary of PAC, the fourth-year human biology and society student said she also raises funds for the Laurel Foundation and the UCLA AIDS Institute to support research and advocacy efforts and support families affected by HIV / AIDS. While attendees will no longer be able to meet the event speakers or the children PAC works with in person, Emerson said the move to a virtual environment keeps everyone safe and still provides opportunities for education and l ‘activism.

“We were really trying to find ways to make a virtual event as engaging as possible and to make sure that people who came to that event felt like they were getting an education and would be inspired to join and fight for this cause. “said Emerson. .

This year’s theme “Engage” highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its intersections with HIV / AIDS, Paine said. While PAC primarily focuses on mother-to-child transmission and pediatric HIV, it has broadened its scope to highlight other affected groups like black and LGBTQ + communities. This resulted in the Week of Advocacy, as Paine said the circumstances of the pandemic pushed the organization to engage with all the communities it could reach, which took more time.

In previous years, Paine said the marathon had a fundraising requirement of $ 260, but this has been removed to facilitate everything the financial circumstances that participants experienced as a result of the pandemic. She said that although funding plays a crucial role for PAC, the main focus of the organization is education and making everything as accessible as possible.

“We felt it was worth sacrificing the fundraising requirement in order to increase our participation because obviously the money is fantastic, it has a huge impact,” Paine said. “But our ultimate goal is to educate, and we can do that if we can get more people on the call.”

Throughout the week, PAC offered a variety of events such as a Zoom Monday panel with Tiko Kerr, a Canadian painter and HIV activist, and a marathon walk Thursday. Participants were assigned to specific color teams and earned points by participating in activities that educate and raise funds for PAC’s cause, while also building energy for Saturday’s dance marathon, Paine said.

[Related: Online dance performance emphasizes resisting white supremacy through movement]

However, organizing a virtual event of this scale had its challenges. Paine said without the in-person registration opportunities during the Bruin Walk filing and in-class announcements, PAC had to change its outreach strategy. By emailing faculty and organizations on campus and having PAC members contact their own network, she said about 570 participants have signed up for the Dance Marathon. Shreya Ramineni, director of public relations for PAC and fourth-year student of human biology and society, said that while working in the uncertainty of the event proved to be a challenge, its virtual format offers increased accessibility.

“I think this year a really big challenge was just trying to figure out how we can go from over 10 years of experience doing a dance marathon in person and trying to make it work when we didn’t even know. not if we would be able to have a dance marathon in person, ”said Ramineni.

Presented by the group almost Monday, Saturday’s event will feature speeches from Camp Laurel children who are affected by HIV and speakers from other beneficiaries who have partnered with PAC. Ramineni said the organization’s morale team will host the event, which will also include a workout class.

Thanks to Take a Stand Week and the Dance Marathon, Paine said she ultimately hopes participants to consider awareness, resources and funding for HIV / AIDS as a worthy cause. The intersections that lie in medical distribution, testing and counseling for members of the HIV / AIDS community leave them particularly vulnerable, especially during the pandemic, she added. She said the event aims to de-stigmatize the disease and provide an ongoing commitment to support those affected by it.

“(Our cause is) so multifaceted and intertwined with all the causes that people are rallying behind right now,” Paine said. “I would like people to recognize this and recognize that it deserves people’s attention it is worthy of the continuous efforts of the people.

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