BY KELLY MCBRIDE • firstname.lastname@example.org • February 21, 2010
A group of local celebrities got to shake, shimmy and sway their way to tens of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions during a fundraiser for the American Red Cross on Sunday.
Radio and television personalities joined local businesspeople for the second annual Dancing with the Stars event benefiting the Lakeland Chapter of the American Red Cross. Held in conjunction with DanceSport of Green Bay, the sold-out event paired the celebrity dancers with local ballroom experts for an evening of fun and fundraising.
“It’s a great, fun event,” said Mauree Childress, director of development for the Lakeland Chapter, “and the people who participate make lifelong friends, and a have a great deal of fun — and really serve as community leaders. They really are community leaders for stepping out there.”
Tickets for Sunday’s fundraiser, based on the popular reality TV show of the same name, ran $50 for individuals and $600 for a corporate table. Dancers brought in additional funds by soliciting $1 votes before and during the competition.
Most of the celebrity dancers started practicing for the event around Jan. 1, said Janet Gollnick, production director for the show and owner of DanceSport of Green Bay. She and the DanceSport interns who pair with the celebrities donate their time for the event.
“The routines are entertaining, but they’re not cartoonish,” Gollnick said. “They’re filled with real dancing technique. … It’s real good ballroom dancing with an entertaining focus, and playing to each star’s individuality.”
None of the stars had any prior ballroom experience, Gollnick said. For star dancer Mindy Bennett, owner of Balance for Body and Soul, learning the routines was a great chance to try something different.
“It’s been a blast,” she said before Sunday’s show. “I just thought it would be something new, an enjoyable experience. And it’s definitely lived up to that expectation.”
Watching the stars go from no experience to performing full routines is the best part of the experience for DanceSport intern Ben Wolf, who was Bennett’s partner on Sunday.
“To see that transformation as the process goes on … it’s just the neatest experience to see them through that whole process, from start to finish,” he said.
Eric Witczak, senior vice president and retail banking manager at Nicolet National Bank and vice chair of the Lakeland Chapter, teamed with Gollnick to win the competion.
In its second year, the dance competition has become the Lakeland Chapter’s biggest special event. After exceeding expectations by raising $50,000 last year, organizers thought Sunday’s event could raise in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, Childress said. It did better, bringing in $96,700.
Raising awareness also is important, she added. Organizers plan to hold a third Dancing with the Stars event next year.
“You usually think of the Red Cross and you think of disasters and blood collection,” Childress said, “but we do so many other things.”