Saturday night, the Eagles ballroom was the venue for Seneca Stars Dancing for CASA. Modeled after the "Dancing with the Stars" television program, it featured local personalities with instructors from Heidelberg University, Dance N Style of Sandusky and Becky's School of Dance in Findlay. As was previously reported, I was one of the dancers for the event.
My dancing adventure began in late October with a phone call from Rebecca Herner, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties. She wanted to know whether I would be a "celebrity" dancer for the Dec. 10 benefit. Most days, I quietly do my job and don't consider myself a "star," but it was nice to be remembered and asked. CASA's skilled volunteers do a lot of work to help children in the community, so I knew it was a deserving agency.
In checking the calendar, Dec. 10 was open. Having danced in Kardiac Kapers (about 30 years ago) and more recently in some Ritz Players productions, I decided I could probably make a respectable showing, especially with a trained instructor as my partner. So I agreed to give it my best shot. My teacher was Michael Walker of Dance N Style Studio. The plan was to go to Sandusky twice a week to learn and practice a routine. Because my mom lives a couple miles from the studio, I was able to visit her after our rehearsals.
On our first meeting, Michael taught me some basic moves that could be incorporated into our program, and we chose "Santa Baby" for music. After that, he guided me through the choreography one section at a time until I had learned the whole routine. Much like theater, dancing involves taking on a role and acting the part of that character.
I soon learned ballroom dancing is not as easy as it looks. Michael was very patient as I repeated the same errors over and over. Following his lead at the right pace was a challenge for this control freak. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. In spite of some rough practice sessions, I was determined to see it through. Besides, I didn't want to disappoint my teacher or CASA.
I was able to find some shoes and a dress for the performance. Michael wanted to dance as Santa, but he was having difficulty finding a costume. On the day of our final practice, I called St. Vincent de Paul in Tiffin to see if the shop had a Santa suit. It so happened a new one was in the thrift shop, which I was allowed to borrow.
Also in the weeks leading up to the benefit, I and the other dancers sought "votes" in the form of cash donations, with each dollar counting as a vote. Friends and co-workers generously gave money to CASA in my name. The largest donation for me (that I know of) was $500 from Tony Paulus and the Marisa Paulus Foundation. My employer also made a sizable contribution on my behalf.
As people filed in for the fundraiser Saturday, the five couples drew numbers for the order in which they would dance. Judge Jay Meyer and his partner, Laura Fuhr of Dance N Style, drew number one and performed a stylish foxtrot routine. Next came Seneca County Sheriff Bill Eckelberry with Cassie Frisch of Heidelberg, dancing to the theme from "Pink Panther." Bob Hemminger of Fostoria Community Hospital and his partner, Kara Ward of Becky's School of Dance, presented a very athletic disco routine for a change of pace.
The fourth couple was Lynn and Lenny Clouse, who had to compose some of their own choreography after their instructor became ill. Attired in Santa hat and coat, Lenny passed out "presents" to some of the crowd and concluded the dance by tying a bow around Lynn's waist. Michael and I finished up the competition for the night. Although my dancing was not flawless, the judges (Libra Martin, Corrie Schultz, and Chief Roy Bratton of Ottawa County) awarded generous scores to us and all the couples.
Eckelberry and Hemminger tied for first place, with the Clouses in third and the two Dance N Style couples tied for fourth. Herner, who served as master of ceremonies for the evening, announced the benefit had brought in more than $7,000, and that about $5,000 had been given by fans of the Clouses. As a result, they received the "People's Choice" award.
The true winner was CASA. Statistics show more than 340 abused and/or neglected children were helped so far this year by 79 CASA volunteers in Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot counties. A CASA volunteer serves as an independent "voice" for children going through the court system. These volunteers provide objective information to the judges of the juvenile courts so an informed decision can be made in the best interest of each child.
It was good to see the Seneca County commissioners, local business owners, CASA volunteers and many other people supporting CASA at this fun event filled with holiday spirit. Those who missed Stars Dancing for CASA can still help area children, any day of the year, by making contributions to the agency at 21 Court St., Tiffin. Also, 15 photographs of Seneca Stars Dancing for CASA can be viewed on the C.U. link of the A-T website.
Merry Christmas to all.