Dancing With Our Stars competition in full swing

Written by Maria Amante Press-Gazette Media

Mary Gronnert-Kollross and ballroom dance instructor Michael Witte practice their jive routine Monday for the upcoming Dancing With Our Stars. The event is a fundraiser for the American Red Cross of Northeastern Wisconsin. The two worked on their jive and waltz routine at Simply Ballroom in Green Bay. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

Even though Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver is officially announcing his retirement today, it’s not the last Green Bay will see of him, his wife, or his dancing.Driver’s wife, Betina,  is one of the local celebrities competing in this year’s Dancing With Our Stars, an event that supports the American Red Cross.

Donald Driver took home the mirror ball trophy last year on the 14th season of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.” Those dance moves will again be on display as Donald will be Betina’s dance partner at the event.

“The addition of them has added a new element, a new public interest,” said Shawn Kiser, special events coordinator for the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin. “Unless you get to know the people dancing, public interest might not be that high.”

Kiser acknowledged the Drivers’ star power, but said their celebrity doesn’t necessarily mean Betina has the mirror ball trophy in the bag.

“Without a doubt, there’s an actual contest for fundraising,” he said. “The Drivers bring star power, they can leverage their star power, but that doesn’t mean you can discount the other contestants. I wouldn’t call this a runaway by any stretch of the imagination.”

He said Sean Sanders, who works for Festival Foods, had fundraising efforts in stores, selling cookies and other items to support his effort, and Rick Bondowski, who works at Associated Bank, has many employees pulling for him.

The experience has been a challenge on many levels, said Mary Gronnert-Kollross, one of the dancers and foundation coordinator for Schneider National Foundation Inc.

Gronnert-Kollross said  she’s learned patience, concentration and focus — all while learning how to dance.

“It’s been a great experience, anyone who has the opportunity should just do it,” she said. “You never know if you’re gonna need the Red Cross. It’s important to give back.”

Each dancer has worked since October on two dances to be performed Feb. 23 at the event. Each person will practice at least 30 hours before performing, in addition to fundraising.

Gronnert-Kollross will dance with Michael Witte, a ballroom dance instructor, and owner of Simply Ballroom, 1296 Velp Ave., a Green Bay dance studio. Witte has worked with the event for several years and choreographed many of the performances

“It’s really rewarding,” Witte said. “I love being a part of that night.”

The person who raises the most money between now and the end of the event will be awarded the mirror ball trophy. All funds raised support disaster prevention, preparation and relief, the life-saving training of first aid, CPR/AED classes, collection and testing of blood and blood products, support to military members serving around the globe, the transportation program and international programs.

Prizes are also awarded for dancing: a people’s choice for each dance and an overall judge’s choice award.

Even if they’re not attending the event, people are able to “vote” for their favorite dancer by making a donation. Donations can be made on the Red Cross website via credit card or by sending a check to the group’s office at 2131 Deckner Ave., Green Bay, and indicating which dancer the funds are to support.

Get to know our Star Dance Partners: Donald Driver

8887Driver, Donald

Photo courtesy of Frievalt Photography, llc

Donald Driver is a Super Bowl Champion, Green Bay’s all-time leading receiver and a “Dancing with the Stars” Champion who overcame homlessness and a challenging childhood to succeed.

Driver is the Packers’ all-time receiving leader in yards and receptions, and is the only player in Packers history to record seven 1,000 yard receiving seasons.  A top performer his entire career, Driver has been a four-time Pro Bowl selection.  In 2010, Donald and the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV giving Donald his first Super Bowl ring.

A native of Houston, Texas, Donald attended college at Alcorn State in Mississippi. While at Alcorn, Donald would meet his future wife, Betina.  Donald and Betina were married in 2000; they have three children together, a son Cristian, and two daughters Christina and Charity.

In 2012, Donald parlayed his on-field football success and charismatic personality into a spot on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” He and his partner, Peta Murgatroyd, danced their way into the finals and eventually took home the Mirror Ball Trophy.