Key points Dance-a-thon to send HIV/AIDS-affected children to Camp Heartland 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday Colorado Mountain College gymnasium A $25 donation will sponsor a CMC student to dance nonstop for three hours. Donations can be mailed to: Jonathan Jarrell, 1400 Bob Adams Dr. #A226, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487. 871-2046
At Camp Heartland in Minnesota, youths across the country who are affected by HIV/AIDS get new hope.
Jonathan Jarrell has seen it first hand. As a camp counselor for the past three years, he has watched the camp give children self-confidence and a sense of liberation.
"So many of these kids are really, really sick," Jarrell said. "After going to camp, when they get back home, they're just sort of rejuvenated.
"It's amazing to watch. You don't think they're going to make it through the year and the next year, they come back."
Jarrell hopes the Steam-boat community will help raise funds at a dance-a-thon Saturday night to send children to Camp Heartland.
A $25 donation will sponsor a Colorado Mountain College student to dance from 6 to 9 p.m. for the cause.
Jarrell, a student and resident assistant in the dorms, organized the fund-raiser. A dozen students are ready to dance nonstop for three hours -- besides a five-minute bathroom break -- but more sponsors are needed.
Everyone is welcome to come watch or participate in the dance-a-thon. There will be music and snacks.
Many of the children who go to Camp Heartland were born with HIV/AIDS, Jarrell said. Others do not have the virus, but have a brother or sister with HIV/AIDS, or were orphaned after their mothers died of the virus.
"It provides a supportive and accepting community where they know that they're not alone," Jarrell said.
Jarrell knows how important that can be. He contracted HIV when he was raped in New Orleans six years ago. Volunteering at Camp Heartland has been a life-altering experience for him.
"I used to think, 'This isn't fair, why do I have it?'" he said. But when he volunteered at the camp and saw 8-year-olds taking medicine so strong it makes them sick, who have difficult lives, everything was put into perspective.
"They didn't have a choice, either," Jarrell said.
Camp Heartland "makes them not feel so alone," he said.