Last Saturday night, almost 300 students gathered at the Student Recreation Center for the UCR Dance Marathon 2012. Most of them started dancing around 6 p.m. and did not stop until midnight. A shared passion for dancing was not the only thing that pushed the students to participate in DM2012. Ultimately, they joined together to raise funding and awareness for the Guardian Scholars program, and did so in the most creative and fun way imaginable.

The event was organized by the students, for the students. The idea for the event came to be when Jonathan Mansoori, fourth-year psychology major at UCR, attended various conferences that revolved around philanthropy and student involvement. Mansoori was inspired to create an event that would engage students with their campus and would unite students for a good cause. Soon the idea of holding a dance marathon struck him. The vision seemed ideal, and it was an event that would be fun and spirited. Not only that, but Mansoori looked to other campuses that were successful in holding dance marathons and became even more determined to bring the celebration to UCR.

With a clear goal in mind, Mansoori took on the role of executive chairperson of DM2012 and created a team of students that would help him organize the event. Each of the students on the planning committee were carefully chosen and specialized in tackling a specific aspect of organizing. Some worked on the logistics, others reached out to different businesses and groups on campus for support. At first it was difficult to organize because it had not been done before at UCR, and it was difficult raising funding for such a new event.  But once word got out, many groups and students became involved, and it quickly became a campus wide event.  “The Student Alumni Association and Golden Key were the main sponsors,” Mansoori noted.

All proceeds were donated to the Guardian Scholars program, which is a program that helps former foster youth receive an education. Though the Guardian Scholars program is a national program, DM2012 raised funds specifically for the local chapter. Mansoori said that they wanted to emphasize that the event was raising funds from the community to give directly back to the UCR community. The Guardian Scholars chapter at Riverside has been helping students since 2008, but has been struggling with funding in recent years. Guardian Scholars helps former foster youth access financial aid, counseling, academic and professional mentoring, as well as providing assistance in other ways.

DM2012 was a huge success. Though Mansoori and the rest of the planning committee had high expectations on how the night would unfold, it ultimately exceeded their expectations. The event was split up into two sections and was separated by a curtain. One side of the curtain featured a dance floor equipped with all the elements that contribute to a fun, dance atmosphere: a DJ, flashing lights and loud music. The other side was set up like a carnival—it was packed with games and booths. There were raffles held all night, and gift cards were awarded to the winners. The grand prize was an Apple TV complete with a Netflix subscription.

Every half hour the morale director, fourth year student Derek Roberts, led organized dances and tried to get everyone to participate. At one point, the men who were wearing black participated in a line dance routine that was choreographed earlier that night. When the Men in Black theme song began to play, the men would begin to dance following Robert’s lead. These organized dances helped get everyone together dancing in ways that were fun and inclusive.

Every so often there was a performance from one of the dance groups on campus, and all the students would come together and watch. The performances ranged from Not So Sharp to Dhamaka, the Bollywood dance group, as well as a hip-hop performance from 909, and others.

“It was amazing, it was so nice to see that we had cross-cultural dance groups come as well, and everyone left the games and dance floor to come watch,” said Mansoori.

Vice Chancellor Jim Sandoval also made an appearance and said that he was was proud that DM2012 was going to become a campus tradition, one that would cultivate the culture of philanthropy. Tuppett Yates, a psychology professor and head of Guardian Scholars also shared a few words, saying that she was proud of the students for raising funds and awareness for Guardian Scholars.

By the end of the night, DM2012 had raised $14,734.14. Participants cheered after realizing they had helped in raising so much for a good cause.

“The highlight of the night was the realization of what had actually occurred. So many groups, organizations, and diverse students came together to raise money for a charity, came together to dance for six hours—that was what was amazing,” said Mansoori. After months of tireless planning for the event, Mansoori is relieved it is over. But more than anything, he is proud of the event and what it accomplished. He hopes that the event will be a foundation for future dance marathons to come; marathons that will help to bring students together, help raise campus involvement and spirit, and above all, will help promote a philanthropic culture.