Celebrating Dance Marathon at UCLA's Ten Years of Fighting Pediatric AIDS
This past weekend, we were invited to speak to over two thousand UCLA students as they rested their feet at the end of a very long 26 hours of dancing at the school’s tenth annual Dance Marathon to eliminate pediatric AIDS.
We have both had the opportunity of addressing some remarkable people since we started the Foundation with Elizabeth Glaser in 1988, but this group was amazing. Thousands of UCLA students and supporters united in one room to do something we love ourselves – dance. And by dancing all through the night, they were bringing awareness and hope for the thousands of children around the world and here at home who are affected by HIV and AIDS.
Elizabeth Glaser dancing at a Foundation
event. (Photo: EGPAF)
UCLA was, and still is, a very special institution for us. Not only is Susie an alumna, but Elizabeth herself also spoke to a graduating class of students. Moreover, Susan spoke at the opening of the UCLA AIDS Institute, now a well-respected organization leading the way in HIV/AIDS research, and one of the co-beneficiaries of the Dance Marathon this year.
After such a rich history with the university, it was amazing to be back, standing in front of such a committed group of students and their families and friends – dancing, laughing, and celebrating what the Dance Marathon has become.
Ten years of anything is a long time, and ten years of Dance Marathon is definitely something to celebrate. The hundred or so students who originally brought the Dance Marathon to the UCLA campus never would have dreamed that they were planting the seeds for something so incredible. The inspiration and passion that is passed on, year to year, student to student, embodies how this Foundation was started. If Elizabeth were still with us, we know she would have been so proud. And, more importantly, she would have been out there dancing with them.
When the three of us started the Pediatric AIDS Foundation more than twenty years ago, we were just three friends trying to save the life of one child, Jake Glaser. No matter how challenging the work or how hard the day was, we tried to celebrate each one. We made sure we had fun.
Without that joy and hope, we wouldn’t have gotten through those tough times, and the Foundation would probably be an entirely different organization. The 2,000 UCLA students who sat before us – as well as the thousands of supporters who stood behind them – are carrying on Elizabeth’s legacy by sharing that joy and inspiration with their campus, friends, and family.
The UCLA Dance Marathon steering committee reveals the
2011 fundraising total at the conclusion of the event.
And more than that, they are serving as ambassadors for the cause by educating their peers and raising much needed funds to support our mission of eliminating pediatric AIDS.
The UCLA students raised a remarkable $410,000 this year, bringing their ten-year total to nearly $2.5 million. When we started this organization so many years ago, we never would have imagined being at an event like the Dance Marathon. But we couldn’t have been more proud, especially since we saw a little bit of ourselves in each of those faces looking back at us.
To the many UCLA students who gave so much of themselves this weekend, we are grateful – and on behalf of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and for the countless mothers and children who will be the fortunate beneficiaries of your 26 hours of commitment – many, many thanks!
Susan DeLaurentis and Susie Zeegen are co-founders of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. They each reside in Los Angeles with their families.