On Saturday, hundreds of Yale students gathered at the “Schuy is the Limit Dance-a-thon” to dance for a cause.
The event, which was held in Payne Whitney Gymnasium, was hosted by some members of Yale’s chapter of Pi Beta Phi to raise money for Schuyler Arakawa ’15. Arakawa — who was recently involved in a tragic accident while abroad in Colombia on a Yale fellowship — is currently in stable condition, but many of her Pi Phi sisters worked the event to raise enough money to cover Arakawa’s medical costs. Arakawa is now being treated in Miami and is scheduled to have surgery on March 7. Attendees formed teams to raise money and arrived clad in everything from Hawaiian shirts to banana costumes. The event ultimately raised over $5,000, and students said it demonstrated solidarity among the Greek organizations on campus.
“This is a casual event inspired by Schuyler,” Pi Phi member Allie Souza ’16 said to the crowd. “We hope to just dance, have fun and hopefully raise a lot of money.”
Students who attended came from various campus organizations, including dance groups, sports teams and other Greek associations. Most interviewed said they had either heard about the event through a member of Pi Phi or had a direct connection to Arakawa. Yet many students attended simply to show support for other Greek organizations on campus.
“It’s really important for Greek organizations to collaborate and show support for each other and this event is part of that,” Sigma Alpha Epsilon member Matt Gilman ’17 said.
For the members of Pi Phi who attended, the event was much more personal. According to Pi Phi member Natalie Sheng ’17, who oversaw the event’s organization, many of her close friends are best friends with Arakawa. Even though she has personally only met Arakawa a few times, Sheng said, Arakawa represents the strength of the bond of Pi Phi lineage.
Pi Phi member Olivia Loucks ’17 said the event represented the “energy and spirit” that Arakawa maintains on campus, despite the fact that she no longer attends Yale, through her friends who are still students here. Several members of Pi Phi commented on Arakawa’s bright personality and ability to unite people.
“She really loves bringing people together, and the really exciting thing is that we have people here from all different kinds of groups on campus,” Sheng said. “Hopefully, people will have fun together and meet each other while dancing for a good cause.”
A vital asset to the fundraising campaign has been the influx of online support. In addition to the $5,000 raised by the dance-a-thon, a GoFundMe account set up by a friend of Arakawa has brought in $187,745 in just 16 days.
Many of the attendees mentioned that they found out about Arakawa’s accident through online forums such as Facebook and other forms of social media. Once they encountered her story, they said they were inspired to donate and to attend the dance-a-thon.
“I found out about it just scrolling through Facebook,” SAE member Anthony Mercadante ’17 said. “I thought it was a good chance for us to bring the community together and to show support for Yalies in general.”
At the event, members of Pi Phi manned a raffle table, which included gift certificates from Toad’s Place, Go Greenly, Ashley’s Ice Cream, Crepes Choupette and other local businesses. According to former Kappa Alpha Theta member Lizzie Hylton ’15, who helped with the event, all proceeds from raffle tickets will go to Arakawa’s medical costs.
Pi Phi members at the event said they were especially grateful to Sheng, who did most of the organizing for the dance-a-thon. According to Sheng, the event was put together in about a week and was attended by over 18 teams.
“The fact that this came together in less than a week and a half speaks to the ties that Schuyler still has on this campus,” Loucks said.
Clarification, March 7: A previous version of this article stated that the event was hosted by Yale’s chapter of Pi Beta Phi; in fact, while Pi Phi members were involved in the fundraiser, it was not an official sorority event.