Students walking in front of the Tower on Thursday were treated to a performance by a group of brightly dressed traditional Latin dancers, one of several acts featured in the “Make It Happen” benefit concert.
The UT Ballet Folklórico dancers participated in the event to help raise money for Fernando Villa, an 18-year-old Travis High School graduate who underwent double lung transplant surgery earlier this week.
The organizers of “Make It Happen” wanted to use music and dance to help raise the $26,000 to pay for Villa’s medical bills. In addition to the UT Ballet Folklórico, local Mariachi band Mariachi Corbetas performed during the concert.
Pre-med junior Rodolfo Rodriguez and social work sophomore Juan Benavides co-hosted the concert with Beta Upsilon Chi, known as Brothers Under Christ.
Benavides said he was watching the news when he realized he knew Villa personally and was inspired to help.
“When I saw it, I was like, ‘Wow, I went to high school with him,’ and I just couldn’t believe it,” he said.
Austin businesses have already donated about $7,500, and the benefit concert raised $1,151, making the total $8,651 since “Make It Happen” began.
Rodriguez said he was more than happy to help when Benavides asked him for support.
“We sat down and went through the process of figuring out what we could possibly do to have an impact,” Rodriguez said. “After a couple of weeks, we sent out the word that we’d be having an interest meeting and thankfully people came out.”
Biology freshman Juan Herrejon said he overheard talk about the benefit at a health professions meeting and knew he had to contribute.
“We are trying to save a human life, and there’s no greater reason to want to help out,” he said.
Herrejon said he actively supports cancer awareness because the disease has directly affected people close to him.
“Last year, one of my high school teachers that I was very close to died from breast cancer,” he said. “Ever since then, I’ve paid more attention to how cancer affects people.”