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.

Get to know DWOS Executive Producer: Shawn Kiser

After spending nearly two decades in radio and television, I challenged myself to make a bigger difference in this world and ventured into the non-profit sector.

This is my sixth year producing Dancing with Our Stars and I’ve developed many great relationships through this wonderful event. In addition to my DWOS duties, I also serve as the Development Director at Acts 1:8 Ministry where we share God’s love through Planned Acts of Christian Kindness. Faith, family and helping the less fortunate are my priorities and that’s providing me with a very blessed and fulfilled life! Thank you all for supporting this amazing group of community volunteers!

A quick trip down memory lane – I vividly remember a conversation I had with Donald Driver in December of 2012 in which I told him I wanted to do an all-star event for the 10th anniversary. Keep in mind DWOS wasn’t even five years old at that time! It’s cool to see it come to fruition although bittersweet since it doubles as the final chapter in this amazing story. Planning for this event began about two years ago. Let’s make it a grand finale!

 

 

Get to Know – DWOS14 All Star – Jody Weyers

Love these people! My volunteer crew for my 40th Birthday Bash Fundraiser!

It’s hard to believe it was four years ago I competed in the 2014 Dancing with Our Stars for the American Red Cross. When I look back on my journey I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences of my life.  To this day, I continue to be humbled by all the people who supported me along the way and who contributed to my fundraising campaign in shattering my goal of raising $40,000. My final fundraising total was $56,182.57!

Here we are in year 10 and the final year – it is bitter sweet!  I have been involved with this event since it was just an idea that came out of the mouth of one of our board members, Jim Gagnon, and here we are nine years later, 95 community dancers who gave of their heart and soul to support the American Red Cross and more than $2 million dollars raised for program and services.

People ask me all the time, if so successful, why is this the last year? Fundraisers have a shelf life and DWOS has had an amazing run, but it has gotten harder and harder to find people who can give the time, willing to make the commitment and have the network to be able to raise the minimum commitment we ask.

Reading over my 2014 bio (click HERE to read) so much has changed in my life, but one thing that has not changed is my work and passion for the Red Cross (16 years) and my commitment to engage and be an advocate for volunteering.

In my 2014 bio I talked about my bucket list – in the four years since, I can proudly check off: ballroom dancing, running a ½ marathon, traveling to India and seeing the Taj Mahal and I moved from Green Bay to Madison.

December 2016 in front of the Taj Mahal, Agra, India

My current role with the Red Cross is Donor Recruitment Manager. I work with our community sponsor groups in Sauk and Columbia Counties and in the cities of DeForest, Windsor and Waunakee in setting up blood drives and educating the community about the importance of giving blood.

I am very fortunate I continue to work with an amazing group of volunteers from our blood drive coordinators to all our volunteers working at the drives and those behind the scenes helping to put up posters in their community, clearing the donation space of tables and chairs before the drive and being advocates to recruit donors.

Recently I was reminded, once again, the impact Red Cross volunteers have within a community when disaster strikes.  May 31, 2017, there was an explosion at the Didion Corn Mill in Cambria killing five and many others injured and needing lifesaving blood due to their injuries. Our disaster volunteers were on site immediately supporting all the emergency crews and our mental health volunteers were there to help the families impacted by being the shoulder to lean on, giving out lots of hugs, listening and providing comfort and guidance when their world has been turned upside down.  I saw the impact of the community near and far wanting to help – how they helped was by coming out and donating blood. Five days after the explosion we had a blood drive in the nearby town of Randolph.  Our goal was 56 units and we collected 80 units for a potential of 240 lives saved.  We had to turn people away because we ran out of blood bags.  The community support was again humbling and very heart-warming.

Post from donor, Madeline Spooner: We all gave blood today ❣️💉 to help victims injured in the Didion explosion in Cambria, WI. My heart breaks for the people who lost their lives, including Duel Block who was best friends with all of these sweet kids. Red Cross’ goal was to collect 56 units and a total of 80 units were given. A potential of 240 lives saved! Feels so good to do good and be surrounded by such amazing, lovely people.

Over my 16 years of working with the Red Cross and volunteers I have witnessed countless acts of kindness and am blessed to have crossed paths with some of the greatest people in our community.

My goal for the 2018 Dancing with Our Stars and the goal of our amazing All-Star dance crew is to make this year the BIGGEST and raise the MOST money from any other year. Our goal is to raise more than  $600,000.  I hope you will give a gift in support of me and the American Red Cross! (click HERE to donate).

In closing, I want to give a special thank you to Shawn Kiser, Executive Producer of DWOS. You are the big brother I never had. I am forever grateful for our friendship, teamwork, your positive “go big or go home” attitude and for always having my back. We have had so many amazing memories and laughs since you came on board in 2012. I also want to give a shout out to my #RAGECREW –— You know who you are. I am looking forward to putting on my dance shoes once again for one final performance for the Red Cross Dancing with Our Stars …… The Last Dance!!!

Here are my videos from my 2014 Dancing with our Stars journey! 

American Red Cross Announces Dates for next Dancing with Our Stars Campaign

DWOS 2017 Title Treatment-page-001The next campaign of the American Red Cross Dancing with Our Stars fundraiser is set. It will begin with a kickoff party Tuesday, October 4 and culminate with the dancing show on Saturday, February 25, 2017 at the KI Convention Center in Downtown Green Bay.

For the first time in its nine-year history, DWOS is recruiting teams to compete in the event in addition to its traditional individual participants. The teams will consist of two participants who will work together to raise funds. Divisions will then be created for teams and individuals with those raising the most money in each category taking home the coveted Fundraising Mirror Ball Trophy. Regarding dancing, each participant will learn and perform one dance.

We are actively seeking suggestions for possible participants. Please email them to Shawn Kiser at skrallyman@gmail.com.

Karen Classon takes home the fundraising mirror ball trophy raising over $87,000. Photo by: Mark Witte

Karen Classon takes home the fundraising mirror ball trophy raising over $87,000. Photo by: Mark Witte

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 and international programs.

DWOS 2016 raised more than $200,000 for the local Red Cross.  Karen Classon, Owner of SKB Management, took home the Fundraising Mirror Ball Trophy after raising $87,000.

Information about tickets will be available at a later date. More event information can be found on the following Red Cross platforms:

Dancing with Our Stars blog: http://redcrossdwosblog.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/americanredcrossnortheastwisconsinchapter/

Twitter: @redcrosswis (#DWOS17 to join the conversation)

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

“Dancing with Our Stars” for the American Red Cross moving to KI Convention Center in Downtown Green Bay

6th annual event will be held Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Downtown Green Bay is the new destination for the annual “Dancing with Our Stars”event benefiting the American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin. The KI Convention Center will host the prestigious fundraiser Saturday, February 15, 2014. The event, now in its sixth year, resembles ABC Television’s hit “Dancing with the Stars” and features ten community members (known as “star dancers”) who compete both on the dance floor and to raise money for the local Red Cross.

“We are excited about partnering with the KI Convention Center and continuing to grow our amazing event,” says Shawn Kiser, Special Events Coordinator for the Red Cross.  “Dancing with Our Stars sells out every year and we look forward to the opportunity to entertain 1,000 guests at the KI.”

“We welcome the Red Cross and DWOS event to downtown with open arms.  Their event will be a unique addition to the growing list of activities taking place throughout the year in the Green Bay’s cultural center.” said Jeff Mirkes, Executive Director, Downtown Green Bay, Inc. & Olde Main Street, Inc.

The 2013 Dancing with Our Stars campaign, headlined by last month’s dancing competition, raised nearly $370,000 in net revenue for the Red Cross. Betina Drivertook home the coveted Mirror Ball Fundraising Trophy. She danced with her husband, former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, and raised $158,000.

Not only do those in attendance support local efforts, so can those not attending as the “star dancers” receive votes in the form of donations to the Red Cross. One dollar equals one vote. 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.

The participants for Dancing with Our Stars 2014 will be announced sometime this fall. To nominate someone, email Shawn Kiser: Shawn.Kiser@redcross.org.

Dancing with our Stars blog: redcrossdwosblog.org

Facebook: facebook.com/NEWRedCross

Twitter: @NEWRedCross (#DWOS to join the conversation!)

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.