A cappella filled McGuinn on Thursday night as the Boston College AIDS Awareness Committee hosted its first annual Acapelooza. Featuring musical groups The Dynamics, The Heightsmen of Boston College, Jammin’ Toast, The Sharps, and Against The Current, the event served as a fundraiser for Camp AmeriKids.
This foundation is a summer camp for young people aged eight to 16 who are living with HIV/AIDS and sickle cell disease. Founded in 1995 by Robert C. Macauley, the eight-week program in Warwick, N.Y. allows inner-city children and teenagers living with these diseases to attend summer camp in a community with peers who understand their experiences.
In addition to traditional summer camp activities such as boating, arts and crafts, and even a talent show, Camp AmeriKids also provides medical care, with doctors and nurses who reside on the campgrounds, as well as a wellness team, which provides psychosocial support. Participants do not pay for the program, which means that fundraisers are particularly important.
For the BC AIDS Awareness Committee, the event serves both to inform the BC community and address the struggles of those living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. According to the organization’s president Ayman Bodair, A&S ’14, “HIV is a disease that affects 35 million people worldwide. Many people think that that disease can’t affect me here, in the BC bubble, in the United States of America. But the reality is 1.2 million people in the U.S. still have the disease today, even with the advent of medication and treatments.”
He and the e-board decided to focus on the plight of HIV-infected children for this particular fundraiser. “What HIV does is, it strips your body defenseless against pathogens,” Bodair said. “It leaves your immune system completely vulnerable, and unfortunately, it’s the most vulnerable among us who tend to get the disease, especially children.
“As a result, children born into families with mothers who are HIV positive tend to contract the disease within the first year of life, and many are left either to die or are orphaned,” he said. “As a result, when they get into childhood, or even adulthood, they are left with a stigma for nothing they did wrong. Maybe they can’t play with the other kids on the playground, due to medical issues, or even have a normal summer camp experience. And that’s why we’re here tonight.
“Camp AmeriKids was very excited to work with us, and we found them to be a fantastic cause for this event,” said AIDS Awareness Committee Vice President Shane Daugherty, also A&S ’14.
The committee showed a video that Camp AmeriKids made specifically for the Acapelooza event, which allowed the camp executive director, Gabrielle Moss, to address BC directly. “Our mission is to enrich the lives of youth living with HIV and sickle cell disease,” she said. “I want to thank the AIDS Awareness Committee for having this wonderful event, I want to thank all the singing groups for coming out and participating in Acapelooza, and I want to thank the audience for coming out and showing your support.”
Ultimately, Acapelooza raised $670, meaning that the AIDS Awareness Committee is well on its way to its $1,000 goal, the cost of sending one child to camp. “We most definitely consider this an accomplishment,” Daugherty said.
In addition to helping Camp AmeriKids, they hope that the success of Acapelooza will help spur interest for other events this semester, including a speaker panel and a 5K run, co-sponsored by UGBC. “We’re a small group, and we’re trying to really expand,” said organization treasurer Neal Shah, A&S ’14. “The point was to raise awareness of who we are and what we do and to raise money for this cause. And I really think that we hit every goal that we had going into this show. That gives us motivation for our next event.”
“We’re looking to do big events this semester,” Bodair said.
Although much of the e-board will graduate this semester, the members expressed hope in the future of the organization. “We’re absolutely hoping that this event will help raise our visibility on campus,” Daughterty said. “We’re hoping people come here and see that this is a great event, and I look forward to seeing it again next year. Unfortunately, we’ll be gone, but we’re looking forward to coming back. We’re hoping that next year, it will be sold out. That’s the goal.”