Local stars take to dance floor for Red Cross

Written by Nathan Phelps Press-Gazette Media – Click HERE for video of story.

Donald and Betina Driver perform their dance routine during the American Red Cross Dancing With Our Stars event at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Ashwaubenon, Wis., on Saturday, February 23, 2013. Lukas Keapproth/Press Gazette Media

ASHWAUBENON —  A little more than an hour to showtime, it was a mix of nervousness, anticipation and excitement among a number of dancers performing as part Dancing With Our Stars, an annual fundraiser for the American Red Cross.

They practiced for months — and then practiced more Saturday — and they were about to hit a brightly lit dance area in front of more than 750 people.

“If you’re not nervous, then there’s something wrong with you,” said Rane Cegelski, a dancer from Green Bay. “With 750 people, you’re going to get a little nervous because you never know what might go wrong.” But those pre-event feelings are replaced by others at the end of the night.

“Walking off is fantastic and you’re all pumped up… then a couple days later you have this huge withdrawal,” Cegelski said. This was his third year dancing and fifth volunteering. The event, in its fifth year, serves as a fundraiser to support Red Cross disaster prevention, preparation and relief; life-saving training of first aid; CPR/AED classes; collection and testing of blood and blood products; support to military members; the transportation program; and international programs.

Michael Witte, owner of Simply Ballroom and one of the pro dancers, has seen the event grow over the years. This is his fourth year dancing in the event. “It’s been interesting to see the growth and evolution from that first year when we were at the Riverside Ballroom where they could only fit 300 people and we raised $48,000, to the Three Clans Room … and we have individual stars that are raising more than we raised that whole first year.”

Saturday night’s sold out event, held at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center Green Bay in Ashwaubenon, raised more than $370,000, up from $149,000 last year.

Erica Vanboxel and Rane Cegelski perform their dance routine during the American Red Cross Dancing With Our Stars event at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Ashwaubenon, Wis., on Saturday, February 23, 2013. Lukas Keapproth/Press Gazette Media

Erica Van Boxel, a Press-Gazette employee, hit the floor as a celebrity dancer. She got involved to support the Red Cross. “Going into ballroom dancing I didn’t really know what to expect,” Van Boxel said. “The best part is going to be knowing I set my mind to something, I accomplished learning two dances, and when they announce the fund raising total …it’s going to be an awesome feeling to know we were a part of making that happen.”

Dancing With Our Stars got a bit of Dancing With THE Stars Saturday night when former Packers wide receiver Donald Driver took to the floor with his wife, Betina. Pre-event nerves? Not really. This was 770 people versus a television audience of 35 million. “I’m nervous throughout the week, but when the lights come on, I’m ready to play ball,” Donald Driver said. “The American Red Cross helps so many people, not just in Wisconsin but around the world, and to help them raise money for their cause is truly something special.”

Betina Driver took top honors in the fundraising department Saturday night, earning a another mirror ball award for the Driver household.

Dancers worked since October to prepare two dances for Saturday night’s events — as well as raising funds. Todd Bierowski, a first-time celebrity dancer from De Pere, kept his goals for the evening simple. “The best-case scenario is we raise a lot of money … and we get through the routine without forgetting any of steps,” he said. “And we have a lot of fun doing it. That’s the key.” Despite having to “learn how to dance,” it’s something Bierowski said he’d do again. “It’s challenging, but it’s very rewarding,” he said. “If I was asked (to do it again), I probably would. It’s been fun.”

nphelps@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter@nathanphelpsPG or on Facebook at Nathan Phelps (Press-Gazette)

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