Celebrity dancers raise $96K for Lakeland Chapter of American Red Cross

BY KELLY MCBRIDE • kmcbride@greenbaypressgazette.com • February 21, 2010

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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.

Eric and Janet's Tango (Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette)

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.”

Mindy and Ben (Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette)

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.”

Last Minute Voters……See what you could win!

For you last minute voters….Place a vote for your favorite star on February 15-19 and for your vote, your name will be entered into a drawing for a Packer full size helmet, signed by veteran running back Edgar Bennett.  THIS JUST IN: Edgar Bennett will personalize it for the winner! Vote online at www.arclakeland.org or by providing your donation to any of the dancing stars.”

 

Mindy Bennett; Powerhouse On and Off the Dance Floor!

Hello, I’m Mindy Bennett, owner of Balance for Body and Soul.   I was born and raised here in Green Bay and have been fortunate to have spent the good majority of my 36 years here.  I am married to Edgar Bennett and together we have two fantastic kids; Elyse, 9 and Edgar IV, 14.

My first dancing memory was when I was approximately four years old at a dance recital for ‘Delorite’s School of Dance.’ I was on stage front and center dancing on a wooden milk crate to the good ship lollipop. I completely forgot all of the steps in the middle of the song so I proceeded to make up my own.  Later I was told that it ended up looking like I had a solo in the song because of my placement in the front row, directly in the middle and the fact that I never stopped moving… I’m certainly hoping this memory isn’t a foreshadowing of my upcoming dancing spotlight!!  To this day, I still remember all of the words to that dance school theme song. What a blast!

My dream dance partner, hands down, would have to be my husband Edgar!

My all time favorite Dancing with the Stars dancer was Kristie Yamaguchi.  She was meticulous and graceful on the floor.  She definitely meant business when she was practicing and her work ethic certainly showed in all of her routines.

I am truly honored to be a part of this event because the Red Cross is such an integral part of helping our community in so many ways.  My first experience with the organization was through the annual blood drives held at my high school.  Because I am an owner of a fitness facility, it’s mandatory to maintain an updated CPR certification so I am lucky to have the Lakeland chapter of the Red Cross to stay current with industry standards.  Also, when my son became old enough to babysit, we sent him to the Red Cross babysitting course so he would be fully prepared for any circumstances which may arise.

I couldn’t possibly pick just one favorite song.  I get to listen to music for the good majority of my day while teaching classes. I use many different genres of music to compile my playlists for class.  Though if I had to narrow it down I would say the anything by the artist Prince would rank pretty high on my list!

I am so blessed that my hobbies and passion get to intersect directly with my career. I am able to be inspired daily by the fantastic group of clients that I have the opportunity to instruct. Outside of my yoga, spinning, and core conditioning classes, I also enjoy outdoor cycling.  I hope to add ballroom dancing to that list very soon!