Sweating, twisting and grooving to the beat of Latin music with their hands in the air and feet moving, dozens put foot in front of the other to help the people of Puerto Rico. For 15 dollars, people got a good workout and helped a good cause; all the money collected will go to help the victims of Hurricane Maria. It’s not your average fundraiser since this one hits home because many of the participants are related to or know someone affected by the disaster.
“It’s not the highlight anymore, but people are still out there suffering. Earlier, we shared a story. One of our instructors had a cousin who was diagnosed with cancer in Puerto Rico right after the storm and with no electricity, [and] sadly he did not make it, so this really hits very close to home for a lot of us,” said Niki Rodriguez, who was the event’s organizer.
The Zumbathon event was for Unidos for Puerto Rico, one of several fundraisers for Hurricane Maria relief. The money collected will be donated to area hospitals in Puerto Rico and given to people who are relocating to Buffalo from Puerto Rico. The fundraiser organizers say they do not have a goal of how much they want to raise because they do not want to limit the amount of donations coming in.
“We are recognizing that 140 new students are coming in and they are coming with their families with minimal or no resources and they are coming with their families,” said Jen Mecozzi, a Buffalo Public Schools board member.
In addition to raising money through dance and movement, organizers are also raffling off gift bags, selling clothes and, in general, raising money, everyway and anyway they can.
“There is a huge Puerto Rican community here in Buffalo and a lot of times people are sometimes colliding together on the same goal. We are hoping to bring all of the people together to help with this one goal,” said Mecozzi.
With one step at a time they are hoping through Zumba to help those who need it the most.
“It’s very unfortunate that a lot of our folks that reside here in Buffalo cannot get to their folks in Puerto Rico. People have lost lives that are loved ones of people here and there is still no communication.” Mecozzi adds. “It’s sad they are a United States territory and dancing is what he can do and what we will do.”