Seven Richmond celebrities and their dance instructors have been busy tip-toeing their way across the hardwood since early January to help raise funds for the Richmond Hospice Association.
And over the coming few weeks they will be perfecting their routines for the second annual Dancing With the Richmond Stars event March 2 at The Grand Ballroom in the Ironwood area.
“Coming from my experience in last year’s event, this is crunch time,” said area Laura Van Sprang, the winner in 2012. “So, I am seeing a lot more people in the ballroom, more often.”
It’s all in good fun for an important cause, she explained.
“It’s very touching and heart-warming to see how much time and effort people put into this. It’s also them (competitors) putting themselves on the line. It’s not easy to learn the dance. And it’s not easy to put yourself out there in front of your whole community.”
Van Sprang, who is a funeral director and embalmer at the Richmond Funeral Home, as well as the hospice association’s events coordinator, will be back to perform a support dance on the night and hand over the trophy to the winner.
One of the seven competitors who has been paired with an instructor, just like in the reality TV show Dancing With the Stars, is Rick Duff, Executive Director of Business Development at the Edgewater Casino.
“I’ve never been one to not be open to embarrassing myself,” said Duff who added he is looking forward to having fun with the experience. “I’ve always loved to dance.”
He and instructor Linda Chen will be performing the cha cha, a dance picked to match Duff’s affable personality.
“He seems like such a fun person,” Chen said. “And because of our size difference, I thought the cha cha would be better.”
Chen said the cha cha is cheeky, playful, “and there’s a lot of character. And Rick has a lot of personality.”
While each competitor is given three minutes to perform Duff said that so far through practices that can seem like a lifetime.
Asked for a prediction on how he and Chen will do, Duff said, “I’m in the casino industry, so I’m saying I’d be a long shot to win it.”
Fellow competitor Georgina Patko, a management consultant for non-profit organizations, said signing up to dance was a “no-brainer.”
“I’ve recently stayed with a friend in a hospice. Watched her go through her journey, and so to be asked to do this was something I could do in her honour and in her memory.”
Patko added the opportunity to learn how to dance—she and instructor Zillion Wong are doing the Jive—was also a big incentive.
“Although, having said that it’s so scary and I’m just starting to have sleepless nights trying to remember steps and the sequence and choreography. It’s only three minutes, but to remember all the steps that go on is hard. And the technique is something extra.”
Patko said she loves rock and roll—she’s a big Rolling Stones fan—and loves to dance. But the formal kind was limited dancing with her father at weddings.
Other competitors include: Fanny Ng, a medical social worker, Karina Lapalme, Human Resources Manager with the City of Richmond, Air Canada pilot Terry David, and the husband and wife team of realtor Lynda and lawyer Richard Terborg.
Money is raised through ticket sales and pledges to the individual dancers, both of which can be done on line (richmondhospiceassciation.com) by clicking on the Dancing with the Richmond Stars section.
Last year the event raised around $25,000.
This time around, hopes are the figure can be doubled as word spreads.
“With the exposure we got last year, there’s just that much more buzz,” Van Sprang said.
Pat Miller, the hospice association’s executive director, said funding is always challenging for non-profit organizations. And when she learned what the Central Okanagan Hospice Association had done several years ago by starting its own Dancing with the Stars event immediately seized the opportunity to develop a Richmond version.
“They’ve been doing it in the Okanagan for five years and have raised an enormous amount of money,” Miller said, adding last year’s total was around $300,000.
“We’re excited to move forward and build on what they’ve done. It’s great, exciting and fun for everyone. And we’ve learned we can put the words fun and hospice in the same sentence. And that’s a hard thing to do.”
“From a management point of view and strategy for a non-profit, it’s about time we had some new ideas on how to raise money. And this is a great, new idea,” said Patko.
Three celebrity judges (MLA Linda Reid, media personality Kayce White, and Blundell Elementary school principal Don Dixon) will determine the overall winner.
There is also a people’s choice award handed out to the dancer who has raised the most funds.
The money goes towards to the association’s programming.
“We offer grief support, support for those at end of life and their families and friends,” said Miller. “And what that means is we provide trained and qualified volunteer visitors to the palliative unit at the hospital, to hospice house on No. 4 Road, the residential care facilities in our community, and private family homes.”