By Marie Haka

This past weekend, UC Santa Cruz students brought new meaning to the phrase “dance the night away.”

Participants in the 24-Hour AIDS Dance-a-Thon danced all night to raise awareness and funds for AIDS-related local organizations.

The event was held at the Porter/Kresge Dining Hall from noon last Saturday to noon on Sunday. Dancers were provided with upbeat music, snacks, late-night activities, safe-sex materials and free HIV testing with a $5 entrance fee.

Carrie Sownie, a second-year Porter student, organized the event with a group of friends. She chose to give the proceeds to UCSC’s Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP) and the Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP) because of the work they do for the community and their work in fighting the AIDS epidemic.

“Half is going to SHOP — they have the condom co-op, but they also have free HIV testing all the time,” Sownie said. “We want to help them because then it helps our campus community. The other half is going to SCAP. They do free testing, but they also have meals and housing and just a place that you can go and hang out. It’s a really good program.”

Sownie got the idea for a Dance-a-Thon when she helped a friend raise money for the annual Santa Cruz AIDS Walk last year. The two had their own impromptu Dance-a-Thon, where they danced at various locations around campus and were able to collect over $100 in donations from passersby. She later found out that other universities hold similar events.

“I found out from friends that UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Stanford actually have 24-hour dance marathons,” Sownie said. “So I said, ‘Why not Santa Cruz?’”

Flo Dickerson, another volunteer at the Dance-a-Thon, helped Sownie with the smaller-scale dance marathon last year. She was inspired to help make it a larger event.

“It was a lot of fun, so we decided to make it a much bigger event this year,” Dickerson said.

The fun atmosphere of the Dance-a-Thon, as well as the seriousness of the AIDS issue moved participants. Colin Beighly, a second-year Porter student, was motivated to participate in the event because of the devastating effects of the disease.

“AIDS has killed, I think, 230 to 250 million people all over the world,” Beighly said. “It has turned into a more chronic disease as of late because they have a lot of drugs for it, but if we could cure it that would be great. We’ve raised a lot of money for research tonight.”

When the 24 hours were over, Sownie was tired but happy to announce that the dance had had over 250 participants and collected about $2,800.

“I would definitely say the event was a success,” Sownie said.