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 years 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.
Its all in good fun for an important cause, she explained.
Its very touching and heart-warming to see how much time and effort people put into this. Its also them (competitors) putting themselves on the line. Its not easy to learn the dance. And its 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 associations 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.
Ive never been one to not be open to embarrassing myself, said Duff who added he is looking forward to having fun with the experience. Ive always loved to dance.
He and instructor Linda Chen will be performing the cha cha, a dance picked to match Duffs 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 theres 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, Im in the casino industry, so Im saying Id 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.
Ive 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 danceshe and instructor Zillion Wong are doing the Jivewas also a big incentive.
Although, having said that its so scary and Im just starting to have sleepless nights trying to remember steps and the sequence and choreography. Its 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 rollshes a big Rolling Stones fanand 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, theres just that much more buzz, Van Sprang said.
Pat Miller, the hospice associations 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.
Theyve been doing it in the Okanagan for five years and have raised an enormous amount of money, Miller said, adding last years total was around $300,000.
Were excited to move forward and build on what theyve done. Its great, exciting and fun for everyone. And weve learned we can put the words fun and hospice in the same sentence. And thats a hard thing to do.
From a management point of view and strategy for a non-profit, its 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 peoples choice award handed out to the dancer who has raised the most funds.
The money goes towards to the associations 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.
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