Dancing with the Mountain Stars fundraiser pairs local celebrities with dancing pros
Dancing with the Mountain Stars
Date: Saturday, Sept. 13
Time: 5:30 p.m. to midnight
Location: Keystone Conference Center
They’ve been practicing all summer. Since the middle of June, nine Summit County locals have been improving their moves on the dance floor, with the help of a coach.
On Saturday night, all that work will be put on display at Dancing with the Mountain Stars at the Keystone Conference Center.
The event, which is in its seventh year, is a fundraiser for St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, with proceeds going to help fund educational programming.
The premise for the event comes from the popular television show “Dancing with the Stars,” in which celebrities are matched with professional dancers and pitted against one another in competition for best performance. At Dancing with the Mountain Stars, the “celebrities” are figures from the local community, and the professionals come in from out of state, bringing their years of experience — including, for some, performances on “Dancing with the Stars” — to assist their partners.
DANCING FOR A CAUSE
Over the past six years, Dancing with the Mountain Stars has raised more than $600,000 for the hospital, said Debra Edwards, president and chief development officer of the Summit Medical Center Health Foundation. The money has gone toward numerous programs, including SAFE KIDS, Think First, the Traumatic Brain Injury program and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. In 2012, the funds were used to buy a new Flight For Life helicopter.
This year, the focus is on education, Edwards said. Each year, scholarships are awarded to Summit and Clear Creek high school students who plan to study in a health-related field. Another scholarship is provided to a second-year nursing student at Colorado Mountain College.
Community education is another funding target.
“We really want to step up the free community talks that we do,” said Edwards, adding that she’d like to see the talks become monthly, and cover a variety of topics, from what it’s like to live at altitude to breast and colon cancer.
“One of our major goals is keeping ourselves and our community members healthy,” said Edwards.
Event organizers hope to raise $175,000 this year.
LEARNING THE STEPS
Debbie Whitmore, a local dance instructor with a performance and dance background, is in her fourth year as the event’s principle dance coach. She recruits dancers, coordinates schedules and works with dancers and coaches.
This year, she said, the dancers started working with their coaches in mid-June, meeting at least twice a week to practice.
“They’ve really come a long way. I’m always so proud of them because they always work really hard on their dances,” she said.
Each year, she watches the dancers go from nervous and hesitant at the beginning to gaining confidence.
“It’s neat to see them come past that and to really … go from just learning the footwork to doing the actual style of the dancing and really getting into it, instead of just marking out the steps.”
Kelly Foote, owner of Foote’s Rest in Frisco, whose family has a long history with Summit County, is one of the nine dancers this year. Dancing isn’t exactly Foote’s forte — he claims to have two left feet — but since practicing with his coach, Jessica Belflower, he feels he’s got a handle on his dance, the country cha-cha.
“She was awesome,” he said of Belflower. “All the coaches are awesome.”
The fact that the event raises funds for the hospital is also important to Foote. In 2011, shortly after the birth of his second child, Foote’s wife Kerri had to be rushed back to the hospital for emergency surgery.
“The nursing staff and the doctors there saved my wife’s life,” he said, “so (I’m) always eternally grateful for that, and for what their cause is and what they do for the community.”
AN ELECTRIC EVENING
Those who have attended the event before agree that it’s a big night.
“It’s such high energy,” said Edwards, of the atmosphere. “Any time you’re around dancers, there’s just this incredible energy and vibe that you feel. They’ve got lots of emotion and it’s hard for them to sit still, so I think our event really feels that way; you come in, there’s lots of energy, lots of excitement, especially if you know a dancer.”
A panel of local judges will score the dancers. At the end of the event there will be two awards given — Judges’ Choice and Peoples’ Choice. These two will then be invited back to reprise their performance at next year’s event.
In addition to the dancing, the event will feature dinner, a silent auction and an informational video presentation about the hospital and its programs.
“We have amazing sponsors and community support for this event,” Edwards said. “We’re really really grateful to have that kind of community support.”
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