Project Kindle kids talk to DM participants

Katie Glueck

For Danny, now 17, eighth grade didn’t mean school dances or middle school graduation parties. It meant gang-banging, smoking and getting locked up. But when his HIV-positive mom sent him to a summer camp for kids who are affected by HIV and AIDS, he developed a new perspective.

“I had a lot of anger in me when I learned that my momma can die,” Danny said. “I was acting out because my momma had AIDS. But at Camp Kindle, people were cheering me on and believing in me. I ain’t had that in the hood.”

Danny was one of four students who shared his story at Dance Marathon’s SPEAK OUT event in Technological Institute at 7:30 p.m. Monday to a crowd of about 70. The evening featured four representatives, ranging in age from 10 to 17, who spoke about coping with HIV and AIDS in their lives. Each youth attended Camp Kindle, a summer camp sponsored by Project Kindle, DM’s primary beneficiary. According to their mission statement, Project Kindle strives to provide support, education and recreation for families affected by HIV and AIDS.

SPEAK OUT, which stands for “Sharing Personal Experiences And Knowledge: Our Unique Truths,” was an attempt to connect dancers to the children who benefit from their efforts, DM officials said.

“We frequently talk about totals and how much we fundraise, but it’s not just about how much, it’s about how you really are making a difference,” said Ryan Farrell, a McCormick junior and DM’s dancer relations co-chair. “We want the whole campus to get a good feel for not only the programs the money helps to fund, but also the kids and the families that are impacted by it. It’s an uplifting experience to hear their stories.”

That is the reason why Lilly Hubschman said she attended.

“A lot of people go through four years of DM and don’t ever really know what it is,” the SESP senior said. “You donate time, you donate money but you don’t get the full force of it unless you go to events like this. Seeing these kids is what it’s all about.”

Drishay Menon, DM’s co-chair for alumni and university relations, said he wished more NU students had attended.

“I’m disappointed that half the people that could have been here weren’t,” the McCormick junior said. “It was a great educational experience, and people could gain a lot from being here.”

Brett Avila, Project Kindle’s liaison to DM, said that events like SPEAK OUT are just as educational for the young speakers as for the audience.

“It’s empowering for them to share their experiences with others,” Avila said. “A lot of these kids live in secrecy; they can’t talk about their situations in their own communities because of the stigma associated with AIDS. It helps to relieve their burden by educating other communities.”

For Weinberg freshman Sarah Rosenak, who will be dancing for the first time, the event was both educational and motivational.

“I haven’t been to many DM events, so it was great to see the people we’re actually dancing for,” she said. “I learned more about Camp Kindle and how much it means to (the kids). I was excited to participate before, and now I’m even more excited because I know how much our money is helping.”

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