Typically, the summer months are months when things move at a slower pace and workloads become less demanding. Not the case for twelve local business professionals plus four additional cast members this year who not only are working their day jobs but are also learning to dance and be creative with fundraising efforts, all to benefit the local community in the fight against poverty and access to healthcare.
Known as Dancing Under the Stars, this year’s participants, Shawn Barbo (Brunner Sanden Deitrick Funeral Home & Cremation Center) with her sister Carla Longano (BRIM Kitchen + Brewery), Zak Benmerzouga (The Lubrizol Corporation), Ryan Gilkerson (WOVU 95.9FM), Dr. Deborah Hardy (Lakeland Community College), Michele Tyler- Johnson (Lighthouse Advisers), Jay McDonald (Leadership Lake County), Sanjay Parker (Knowtion), Roger Principe (Community Volunteer), Vanessa Purdef (Vanessa Purdef Photography LLC) Jennifer Ross, (Aligned Chiropractic and Physical Rehabilitation), Ric Selby (Dworken & Bernstein) and his cast to include Jim Fox (Parkwood LLC); Rob Gardner (WKYC Channel 3) and Jeff Tomaszewski (Max Strength Fitness), and Kristen Sironen (Jenniffer & Co.) each are charged with learning new dance moves along with raising funds to contribute to the event’s total proceeds. Since its inception, the event has raised nearly $425,000 for Lifeline and the Family Planning Association of Northeast Ohio, a division of Signature Health.
“We are very pleased to have a strong cast of dancers who are committed to making the event entertaining and also share a passion for the two organizations Dancing Under the Stars supports, Lifeline and the Family Planning Association of Northeast Ohio, a division of Signature Health,” states Volunteer Chair, Dione DeMitro.
Without a doubt there will be friendly competition on the dance floor but the last few months has seen its own competition out in the community as the dancers have been holding creative fundraisers all over Lake County. “This year’s celebrity cast is hosting not only more fundraising events than casts from previous years but they are the most creative and fun,” states DeMitro.
There has been a bingo night for designer items, a rooftop brunch & art auction, a 90’s Re-Union party, dodgeball tournament, yoga and Pound fitness classes, cornhole & bocce tournament, raffles for trips, pub crawls & celebrity bartenders, dunking tanks and even sunglass sales! New this year is the opportunity for each dancer to offer an onsite auction item the night of the event. This will add some fun and anticipation while helping their fundraising efforts. Dancers are striving to beat the highest amount raised by one individual, which is over $14,000.
Along with fundraising activities, the dancers have been spending plenty of hours with their paired professional dancer coordinating a dance for the competition which matches their personal interests and style. The professional dancers represent Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Willoughby, Savelli Dance Studios, Rabbit Run Theatre, Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Chagrin Falls and Studio J. The professionals themselves are Frank Anthony, Erica Kravchenko, Andrew Ta, Aleksei Minaev, Elena Minaev, Bobby Ford, Hannah Elizabeth Green, Ethan Konig, Shari Smith, Shannon Taylor and John Thompson.
This year’s dancers, competing for the coveted trophy and bragging rights, will dance in front of judges Mark Bartolotta, Probate Judge, Ryan Callender (past celebrity dancer), Anthony DiBacco (Co-Judges Choice Winner) and Heather Felden (past professional dancer and 4-time Judge’s Choice Award Winner).
The actual event itself is on Friday, August 2nd at LaMalfa, 5783 Heisley Road in Mentor. The evening kicks off with a social hour and buffet at 6:30 p.m. followed by the dance competition at 8:00 p.m. and the winners announced at or before 10:00 p.m. Past years have drawn a crowd of close to 450 people who are in attendance to support a friend or coworker dancing, support the two organizations benefiting from the fundraiser or simply to come out and network with others and have fun with the competition. This year being the 11th year, the goal is to get close to 600 in attendance. “This is truly one of those events everybody just has fun with. It’s amazing to see the community come together in support of our two beneficiary nonprofit organizations, Lifeline and the Family Planning Association of Northeast Ohio, a division of Signature Health,” states DeMitro.
Tickets are available for Dancing Under the Stars priced at $90 per person or corporate tables for 10 with preferred seating for $1000. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite at Dancing Under the Stars or by calling 440-728-6542. Reservations are needed. For more information visit Dancing Under the Stars.
Lifeline, founded in 1973, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to lead the Lake County community in the fight against poverty by offering programs and opportunities to empower residents to achieve self-sufficiency.
Lifeline’s Board and staff believe firmly that self-sufficiency means something different to every consumer. To some it may mean securing affordable housing and keeping their utilities connected so that they have a safe home. To others it may mean having access to medical services so that they can properly maintain their health. And to others it might mean enrolling in school or job training programs so that they can pursue different career opportunities.
As a Community Action Agency, Lifeline is uniquely poised to rapidly respond to the critical needs of our local community and is proud to provide a safety net for those in need.
Because poverty affects every household differently, a wide variety of programs are offered designed to combat the many effects of poverty. Currently programming is divided into four main areas: Healthcare Assistance, Housing & Energy Assistance, Consumer Education & Job Training, and Information & Referral Services.
About the Family Planning Association of Northeast Ohio
The Family Planning Association of Northeast Ohio, Inc. (FPANEO) was established in 1970 to provide the community with medical services, counseling, and education related to reproductive health. Clinic sites are located in Lake and Ashtabula counties with the mission of promoting informed decision-making and personal choice about parenthood and sexuality in a confidential and compassionate manner. Over 65,000 men and women have received services provided on a sliding fee scale based on family size and income. Everyone receives services regardless of income or inability to pay.
Although birth control services were among the first provided by the FPANEO, many others have been added over the years. Screenings for breast and cervical cancer, testing for and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections, pregnancy testing, counseling, gynecological care, prenatal care and men’s services are also offered. Educators provide programs and workshops to the local community in schools, youth and adult detention centers, and other social service organizations.
In 2018, FPANEO merged with Signature Health, a major provider of behavioral health services in Northeast Ohio. Signature Health’s new designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center added primary care to their menu of services, including voluntary family planning services. The organization is excited about the potential to provide more holistic care to all clients as a result of this merger.
Pictured In Cover Photo: From Left to Right, Front Row: Jim Fox, Jeff Tomaszewski, Rob Gardner, Back Row: in red, Ric Selby and Bobby Ford (professional dancer). The photo was during a practice session. They will be dancing to Bye Bye Bye by NSYNC (90’s Boy Band).