Published on February 8, 2012 by Shoshana Czik
Shoshana Czik shares how a transformative community service experience can create meaningful connections that impact you for the rest of your life.
Participating in community service has always played a huge part in my life and growing up, was really important to me and my family. When I went off to college, finding a way to participate in community service seemed natural. My freshman year at Boston University, I heard about Dance Marathon, an event that raises money for the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) and Camp Heartland, a summer camp for families, many of whom are living in poverty, with children who have HIV or AIDS. Dance Marathon seemed perfect since it combined two of my passions: community service and dance.
Dancers participating in the annual marathon are sponsored by friends and family to participate in the 18 hour marathon, during which dancers are not allowed to sit down for 18 hour straight; a task which sounds terrifying and daunting to anyone who has not seen BU’s Dance Marathon in action. Throughout the 18 hours, there are various theme hours, such as Tropical Luau, the 1980’s, Western Wear, and so much more.
One of the more important and meaningful theme hours is the Disney hour, which is held in the early evening. While the dancers are having a great time dressed up as Disney characters, children who benefit from EGPAF and Camp Heartland come to join the party. During this hour, dancers are told that we are not to mention anything about AIDS as many of the children are not fully aware of their illness. The first time I participated in Dance Marathon and met some of the children that benefit from these programs, I was heartbroken. These children were no more than six years old, and they were having the time of their lives running around them room meeting everyone from Mickey Mouse to Cinderella. It pained me to know about all of the medications and treatments these children have to endure.
After the younger children left for the night, some of the teens who benefit from EGPAF and Camp Heartland joined us for a few hours. As teens, they knew full well what HIV and AIDS were and what that meant for them. Each of the teens told us about the many maintenance medications they were on and how that affected their lives. They also spoke about how they had been judged for having AIDS by other children. Their stories were heartbreaking, yet they each concluded with thank yous for the money we were raising for children like them.
Meeting the young children who do not realize they are sick, followed by the teens who know they have this challenging disease put all of our work into perspective. It was important to see that we were raising money for organizations that have such a positive impact on these children and their families’ lives.
Dance Marathon is a wonderful example of a successful and significant fundraising event. Through my work with TELEM, I have also learned of the significance of sustained community service projects as well. TELEM students volunteer at the same community service site throughout the school year and build connections with those they are helping. Both models of community service are important and wonderful examples of Tikkun Olam, how we repair the world.
Shoshana is the TELEM Program Assistant at the JCRC. She is a recent graduate from Boston University with a degree in Sociology. She is an avid BU hockey and Boston sports fan, and loves dance of all kinds.