Remembering the Record-Setting DWOS Journey of Jim Rivett

By Shawn Kiser, DWOS Executive Producer

When you raise $200,000 you deserve to be called “The King” and that’s exactly how I referred to Jim Rivett following his record-setting fundraising campaign for “Dancing with Our Stars” in 2014. I’m blessed to have held a front-row seat for this epic journey and am honored to share some of its most memorable moments as we celebrate the life of this amazing man.

I first met Jim at the historic “Drive for the Red Party” to support Betina and Donald Driver’s DWOS 2013 campaign. That star-studded event took place at the beautiful home of DWOS original Tracy Alpert and several of Donald’s Packers teammates were in attendance. The energy level was high as people danced, wined and dined while placing bids on oral and silent auction items. The biggest ticket was dinner in your home with the Drivers which fetched a winning bid of $25,000! Two others would match it for a total of $75k just for those three meals! In total, $141,000 of the then-record $158,000 the Drivers raised came in that night. Even though he was not connected to the American Red Cross at the time Jim was just as excited as me by the success and pledged that night to take part in DWOS 2014.

When it came to setting the goal for his fundraising, Jim knew exactly how much he wanted to bring in. “$160,000”, he said with a confidence I’d never seen before.

“If I’m going to do this I want to top what Betina and Donald did and raise a record amount for the Red Cross. The organization provides critical services in our community and I’m going to rally everyone I know to donate to the cause,” Jim proclaimed.

It was certainly music to my ears as I feared there was nowhere to go but down following the impressive overall total of $370k from 2013. I would quickly learn that would be the last time I’d doubt the powerful abilities of Mr. Rivett.

We met at Arketype, a marketing firm Jim led at the time. It occupied the former Grace Presbyterian Church in downtown Green Bay. Jim and his team did an outstanding job repurposing the building into one of the coolest work spaces I’ve ever seen. My spirits were immediately lifted when I walked in there for the first time and I’d feel that same way in the many visits to come.

During this initial get-together Jim was rattling off names of people he wanted to reach out to for sponsorships and donations. He frantically wrote on every inch of several pages of a note pad as a name or an idea came to mind. True to his marketing prowess, he titled his effort “Red, White and You.” I felt very inspired and knew our similar drive to succeed would make for a great partnership.

A key piece to his fundraising puzzle was an event he famously dubbed “Mirror Ball Bash” which took place at Arketype. It served as the perfect venue for this disco-themed dance party. More than 300 people donned bell bottoms, leisure suits and platform shoes while boogying to some of the best tunes from that era.

Jim raised $50,000 just that night from auction items to selling undergarments with disco balls printed on them! It provided him a great start toward his $160k goal.

Another event he hosted was a benefit concert featuring musicians Jeremy Lister and Andy Davis. Hundreds of people packed the historic Meyer Theatre to enjoy the great music and support the Red Cross. It brought in another $20,000.

The previous year I unsuccessfully tried to bring in Donald Driver’s professional dance partner from when he appeared on ABC-TV’s “Dancing with the Stars.” The stars just weren’t aligned in 2013 for Peta Murgatroyd to come to Green Bay to serve as a judge for DWOS. The main conflict was she started rehearsals for the spring season of the TV show the day after our event and her agent was not willing to take a chance with our Midwest winter weather possibly delaying Peta’s return to Los Angeles. It was at that moment I decided the following year we’d move our event one week earlier to avoid such a conflict.

I pushed for Peta’s appearance fee and travel expenses to be included in the 2014 event budget but the powers that be would not approve it. They did allow me the ability to try and find someone to underwrite those costs, though. Knowing Jim also subscribed to the motto “Go Big or Go Home” I immediately called him and talked strategy. He loved the idea of bringing in Peta and we went to work on how to make it happen. We created a couple of experiences tied to her visit and found donors willing to claim them. News of Peta’s participation took the buzz surrounding the event to another level.

Despite his fundraising success to date Jim faced a formidable challenge from Chris Lofgren. The President & CEO of Schneider was closing the gap by securing one major donation after another. Chris became like a bright orange Schneider truck picking up steam as it drove downhill. In the other lane stood what Jim dubbed himself, “The Little Guy.” With about one month to go in the campaign Chris pulled ahead in the race for the coveted Fundraising Mirror Ball Trophy.

Rivett rallied his supporters, regained the lead and with one week before the event reached his goal.

“We made it, Shawn!” Jim cheerfully said. “We raised $160,000!” “That’s wonderful, Jim! Congrats,” I replied. And without taking another breath I asked, “Do you think you could make it to $200,000? I mean, it’s great you hit your goal but if you want to leave no margin for error and put plenty of distance between you and Chris, $200k is the way to go.” Never one to back down, Jim said, “Challenge accepted!”

We’ve finally reached Saturday, February 15, 2014: event night. Finishing touches were taking place inside our new home, the lower ballroom inside the KI Convention Center. We’d outgrown our previous two venues and were excited to break in a new spot while welcoming a record crowd of more than 1,000. Jim was still sitting on $160k and I was questioning how much more he’d be able to score before the final votes would be counted at the end of the night.

I was making may way through the ballroom as guests were just starting to trickle in and ran into one of Jim’s biggest supporters, Kurt Vos. He handed me an envelope which felt heavy and asked me, “will these contributions count toward Jim’s total?” “Of course they will, Kurt,” I replied, “we accept donations right up until the end of the last dance.” Once more he asked, “Shawn, will these contributions I’m giving to you count toward Jim’s total?” “Yes, Kurt, I assure you they will count.” He then said, “There is $40,000 worth of donations inside this envelope.” WHOA! My eyes lit up, I cracked a huge smile and Kurt did the same. He knew what those donations just did. It put Jim over the top and landed him on $200,000 and brought the overall team total to more than $500,000! Kurt and I shared a warm embrace as I laughed in amazement at the gravity of what just took place.

It was now time for the dancing to take place which to me was just the icing on the cake but to the performers was the real treat. Jim’s first performance with his pro partner Therese was a Quickstep. One of Jim’s table favors was stress balls and at the end of this performance his 70+ guests tossed them onto the dance floor!

His second dance paid tribute to the time he’d spent working in Latin America years ago. Jim and Therese spiced things up with this Samba.

Once the dancing wrapped up it was onto the awards and finding out who won the battle between Jim and Chris. When it was announced Lofgren finished second with about $140,000, Jim’s supporters knew he was the top dog and the began chanting “Jim! Jim! Jim!” before co-host Cami Rapson even announced the winner. After declaring his feat of raising $200,000, Peta Murgatroyd came forward and presented Jim with the Mirror Ball Trophy. This photo remains my all-time favorite from the 10-year DWOS dynasty.

Those who know Jim know how selfless he is and true to form he deflected the praise for his individual success and instead placed the focus on the team for bringing in more than $500k. He told his fellow participants they all earned a piece of the Mirror Ball and he would be making it a traveling trophy. Each of them would carry it for one month before passing it along to another compadre. It’s the same love he showed them during the campaign by attending nearly all their events. That was Jim, the ultimate team player.

And so, the “King of DWOS” was crowned. I’m still amazed when I think about how he raised all that money. Jim secured donations from more than 500 unique donors with amounts ranging from $5 to $15,000. He applied his marketing skills to his campaign, mailing potential donors creative materials engaging them in his journey and encouraging them to contribute. He also offered help to other participants, providing them with free printing or ideas. That support would continue in future years as he helped recruit and coach others who took part in the event.

Jim desperately wanted to participate in the Dancing with Our Stars finale this past February but a major project he was involved with at his new agency, Khrome, required his full attention. He did make a cameo appearance in Jody Weyers’ “Last Dance” and was also recognized in the dedication for the surprise dance I performed.

 

Jim Rivett – thank you for sharing your love, kindness, talents and treasures with us. Your story continues and your legacy lives on through the many people and organizations you positively impacted. May you dance in our hearts forever.

Official 2018 Dancing with Our Stars for the American Red Cross Poster!

Join us in saluting this amazing team and our sponsors for their dedication to community service. Props also to Harle Photography LLC for designing yet another awesome poster. #DWOS18 #RedCrossAllStar

People interested in purchasing tickets to either the Friday, Feb 23 Disco Ball event or the Grand Event on Saturday, Feb 24 (limited seating available) should send an email to: redcrossdwos@gmail.com.

 

Get to Know DWOS All-Star: Paul Kardish

I was born in California but raised in Philadelphia (FLY EAGLES FLY!) as the middle of seven kids.  My mom, Pat, was probably the best cheerleader in the world and I wish she was here to see whatever it is I do on February 24th!  I have been married to my best friend who just also happens to be a wonderful person and mom, Lisa, for 10 years.  I could not have chosen a better partner in crime to go through life with than Lisa!   In my mind, there is no better person for me than her and she is the love of my life.   Lisa and I have an amazing son, Hudson, who is 7 and makes us real proud every single day.  I am very fortunate and proud to have such an absolute spectacular family!  I can only hope one day I am able to repay my family, especially Lisa, for their belief in me.

Currently, I am General Counsel at Schneider and have been there for the last 4+ years.  Schneider has been a very rewarding professional experience where I don’t think I ever worked as hard but also never had as much fun/laughed so hard as I ever had in a job.  Schneider is a remarkable company with phenomenal leaders and I am very lucky to be a part of such a great team.

I have been very fortunate to serve our country as a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for almost six years.  It was with the FBI incidentally that I had my first exposure to the Red Cross – I was working a bank robbery/bombing crime scene and the Red Cross services van and emergency services team stayed with us the entire time we processed the crime scene – almost 24 hours!

I am a very proud alumnus of Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA which had great success in this year’s NCAA March Madness finishing runner-up!

I am very fortunate to serve as a member of the board of the American Red Cross for Northeast Wisconsin – Greatest American Red Cross Chapter in the U.S.  The members of the board, led by Steve Hansen and Pat Exarhos, are some of the best in the business and our Chapter is in great hands!  Can’t thank all the Red Cross volunteers enough for all they do…they are truly unsung heroes!

I decided to take part in DWOS All-Stars to help maximize donations on behalf of the greatest Red Cross chapter in the US!  Also, it is just something I would never do…so why not embarrass yourself for a good cause!

Get to Know DWOS All-Star: Mary Gronnert

I’m the Coordinator for the Schneider Foundation.  I’ve been married to Hank Kollross for 17 years and have four children and five grandchildren ranging from 1 year to 20 years.  We love to golf and put the top down on our ’69 Pontiac Firebird and cruise.   As a board member for CASA of Brown County, I have a strong passion for helping abused and neglected children.

My favorite moment from my initial DWOS experience in 2013 is winning the People’s Choice Award for my Jive.

Why did I decide to take part in DWOS All-Stars? My husband, Hank, was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia in October 2016 and needed numerous blood transfusions and platelet infusions eventually leading to a bone marrow transplant.  He said I had to do this and dedicate my dance to all the wonderful people who take the time to donate blood, platelets and organs to help others.   Thanks to all the treatments, donors and, by the Grace of God, he is now cancer-free. I especially want to thank his bone marrow donor, a 19-year-old female, whom we hope to meet some day. We call her Jessica and I am dedicating my dance to her this evening.

Get to Know DWOS All-Star: Dan Terrio

I am employed as an Instructional Designer in the Medicare and Retirement division of UnitedHealthcare. I am part of a team that researches and designs training programs that assist sales agents in performing at a high level while maximizing sales growth for the organization. In addition, I also moonlight as a DJ and MC for Elite Music Service, which gives me the opportunity to create memorable events for our clients while igniting a deeper passion for music and making people smile.

I was born and raised on the Stockbridge-Munsee Indian Reservation in Bowler, WI. I grew up in a mixed cultural household (my mom is German descent and my dad is Native American and Italian descent). I am the oldest of two. I have one brother, Andrew (30). Andy is married to his wife, Ronni, and together they have three kids: My nephews, Aden (10), Kash (7) and my niece, Baelyn (5). As is standard with many Native American families, I also have many cousins who grew up with me and were treated like they were my siblings.

Growing up on the reservation, you learn the importance of community, culture, giving and family. It was instilled in me at a young age to always give more than you receive. My family practiced what they preached and always gave back in different ways; through volunteerism, careers and the list goes on. The majority of my life has had a focus on community engagement, youth activism and education. These areas have been a passion and the center point of my life’s work for over 20 years. When I am not attempting to save the world, I enjoy participating in community theatre, karaoke, taking random road trips, biking, volunteering and baking cakes full of smiles and rainbows.

It is hard to pick one favorite moment from my DWOS16 experience. In the fall of 2015, I was at a turning point in my life where I was ready to experience something new and something that would take me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t expect this experience to change my life the way it did. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. While every experience was memorable, one stands out. I had the opportunity to return to Bowler Elementary School (the school I attended growing up) to speak about the American Red Cross, my life experiences and the importance of giving back. I challenged the nearly 100 students (Kindergarten to 6th grade) to a penny war. One month later, Mina and I traveled back to Bowler to learn how much the students raised and dance for them. I will never forget the look on Mina’s face when the students presented me a check for over $600. I was speechless. I’ve always been a firm believer that when you empower a young person into community service, they empower their peers and that empowers a community. This was a prime example of this. I’m proud to be a Bowler Panther!

I was approached shortly after my DWOS16 experience to take part in DWOS All-Stars. Originally, I planned to decline the offer. It was at the encouragement of my mother, Jill that I decided to accept the offer to join the cast of DWOS All-Stars. On September 12, 2017, I celebrated 20 years of life from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. In that accident, I suffered a head injury, and severe injuries to my knee and elbow. I received several units of blood, which saved my life.

It was a moment of encouragement that gave me the direction that forever changed my life. While in the hospital, my grandmother, the late Verna Johnson-Miller, said to me: “You have been given a second chance at life. Now its up to you to figure out why.” This moment gave me the drive to live for something. I’ve never ceased on finding the ‘why’.

On February 24, 2018, I will celebrate 20 years when I took my first steps without the assistance of a wheelchair, crutches or a walker. In April of 2018, I will celebrate 20 years as an American Red Cross volunteer. Looking back over the 20 years, I have lived a fulfilled and accomplished life. What better way to celebrate 20 years of life, accomplishments and volunteerism and to celebrate the next chapter in my life than to participate as a DWOS All-Star?

Get to Know DWOS All-Star: Kati Donaho

I’m a sales manager for Hyatt Hotels who recently relocated from the Green Bay area to Houston, TX. I have a husband of over 13 years and two children (Jameson, 9 Finley almost 7). I enjoy spending time with my family, but also enjoy working out, listening/reading books, and watching movies in my spare time.

What is a favorite moment(s) from your initial DWOS experience?

I think winning People’s Choice had to be the top because I was so nervous I was going to fall or completely forget my steps!

Why did you decide to take part in DWOS All-Stars?

The Red Cross plays such an important role in the community and I wanted to be a part of that experience again. In addition, I have made lifelong friends from the first go-round and wanted the opportunity to work with even more amazing people.

Get to Know DWOS All-Star: Keith Cronin

I’m originally from Racine. I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for 30 years and am currently Manager of Guest Services for the Green Bay Packers. I’m also a Zumba instructor at Western Racquet and Fitness. I enjoy time with family and friends, love traveling and meeting new people, love to laugh, love Disney, and pandas crack me up!

Quotes I live by:

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin

“Life is all about choices and decisions”

“Life is what you make of it….if it doesn’t fit then you make alterations”

“Work hard in silence.  Let your success be your noise”

My favorite moments from my DWOS 2015 experience are meeting some incredible people and doing something out of the norm to raise money for the American Red Cross.  Of course, hearing my name announced as the winner of the People’s Choice Award for the Rhythm showcase was incredibly spectacular.  I couldn’t stop smiling!

I decided to take part in DWOS All-Stars because it’s a wonderful cause and it’s the 10th and final year. I wanted to be part of the magic again and wanted to do something positive and impactful for others before I turned 50.