Clarabel Smith ’20
On Friday, January 31, the Hogan Ballroom was dark, with disco lights illuminating students shuffling, enthusiastically dancing, or batting around a large beach ball in a circle. On the large screen on stage, the time was displayed: 11:45:00 PM, giving the dancers about eight hours left before they can go to bed, lay down, or even sit. As I arrive, much of the $21,000 dollars (and counting!) that Holy Cross Dance Marathon has raised so far was already contributed by students, friends of the dancers, and Holy Cross alumni toward the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation.
The EGPAF, according to its website, “seeks to end global pediatric HIV/AIDS through prevention and treatment programs, research, and advocacy.” In even more pressing terms, the foundation is funding treatment for those 54% of children infected with HIV who are living without treatment, and prevention measures so that no more than the 1.7 million under 15 already infected. With about 500 children being newly infected every day, the importance of this plan of prevention, treatment, and advocacy cannot be underestimated.
Despite the lightheartedness of the room as we dance to “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” by Brandi Carlisle, the dancers are just as serious about the Marathon as they are committed to the hopeful energy it represents. Holy Cross Dance Marathon has been partnered with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation for eight years now, since its conception as an independent student organization. The HCDM is still organized and planned by its Co-Chairs, Kerry Shortall, Kyle Kowalski, and Abby Scott, as well as its Steering Committee of about 10 people. Although the considerable work to raise awareness and plan this event is mostly done by this dedicated group of students, the Marathon also received support this year, as in many years past, from CAB, the SRCs, and PRIDE. This was evident as I visited friends and acquaintances who were dancing for the cause, finding that the marathon included students from many different majors, years, clubs and organizations- ones I’d hardly ever seen in the same place. It only made more sense when I later found out from Kerry Shortall that over 200 people participated throughout the night, with more like me visiting and offering support to their friends.
Kerry has been participating in HCDM since her first year, when she joined as a general member of the committee, and since then she has danced in the marathon every year. “There’s no way to describe the love, light, and energy that filled the air that night,” she says about her first marathon, and even as students grow tired, migrating in and out of the ballroom to retrieve coffee, water, and snacks, there is the same sense that the dancers, and the invisible donors that keep the Dance Marathon running, are doing this out of love. In Kerry’s words, “There’s something so special about literally standing for and with those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS along with a community of other Holy Cross students who are equally energetic and passionate about the cause.” This seems to be a tradition that Holy Cross students will continue for many more generations, hopefully until there is no longer such a thing as pediatric HIV/AIDs.
Photo by Hui Li ’21.