By Kerri Regan
Photo by Michael Burke
Dancing With The Stars: Shasta County Style
A magazine editor, a tribal council chairperson and a trio of local entrepreneurs will soon lace up their dancing shoes and leap outside their comfort zones to become heroes for victims of domestic violence.
“Dancing With the Stars: Shasta County Style,” a benefit for One Safe Place, matches six local “stars” with trained high school and college-age dancers.
This year’s production features local celebrities Ronda Ball, Sharon Clark, Aly Evirs, Jason Hart, Rocky Slaughter and a sixth star who has yet to be selected. Their names will be commemorated on the “walk of fame” outside the Cascade Theatre. They’ve been paired with dance experts Josiah Moran, Jordan Stevens, Nathan Myers, Rachel Hill, Stephanie Scatena and Monica Fisher. They recently gathered at One Safe Place to get their marching (or waltzing, or jitterbugging) orders.
Evirs of Boheme Salon joked that her partner “has a ton of work cut out for him.” Home Helpers owner Sharon Clark admitted that her favorite dance is the hokey pokey.
But by June 28, even the celebrities who claim to have two left feet will dazzle the crowd at the Cascade Theatre with their polished moves, promised Kathy Babcock, the owner of Step by Step School of Ballroom Dance, who has been head choreographer since the event’s inception.
“The professional dancers are very patient and very kind people,” she assured the celebrities. “We want to make this a super success for you. I can’t guarantee you won’t have butterflies in your stomach, but you will look beautiful, and we will work with you so everything shows you off to your best. You can do lifts if you want, but if you don’t like leaving Mother Earth, I get it.”
Since its inception, “Dancing With the Stars: Shasta County Style” has raised more than $300,000. Fundraising is an integral part of each star’s participation, as each dollar counts as a vote. They’ve already begun planning creative fundraisers — in past years, activities have included formal dinners on the river, toga parties, celebrity bartender events and much more.
Meanwhile, the pairs are starting to figure out the music, choreography and costumes for their two routines. “We’re so impressed with the commitment they give to us,” says One Safe Place Development Director Ken White.
The event started in 2007 as a joint fundraiser for the Shasta Family YMCA and what was then known as the Shasta Women’s Refuge (One Safe Place has been the fundraiser’s sole beneficiary since 2011). Staci Bertagna and Maggie John were watching ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” while they awaited election results, and decided it could make a fun local fundraiser. The third year, contestant Melissa Hunt suggested raising money for votes.
“It’s been a very lucrative source of funding for us,” says Fund Development Manager Kristi Hanson, who described the experience as an “amazing journey” for participants.
Awards are given to the top fundraiser and for the Judges’ Choice, but the true winner is One Safe Place.
Director of Client Services Michael Burke says one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her life, and Shasta County’s domestic violence rates are 50 percent higher than the state average. “We’re going to end it,” Burke says. “The average woman tries to escape seven times before she’s successful. We’re trying to get that down to one.”
Day after day, One Safe Place hears grateful testimonials from people who were able to get the help they needed to break that cycle. These fundraisers make that possible.
“You are making a choice to make a difference,” Burke told the participants. “You’re going to feel like a million bucks, and you should, because I promise you, you’re going to save somebody’s life.”
Myers, 19, of Redding, is back for his fourth show and echoed Burke’s sentiments. “Every time you’re standing on stage at the end of the show and they announce how much money was brought into the organization, just because you danced and taught someone else how to dance, that moment can’t be replaced.”
Ticket information: www.cascadetheatre.org
One Safe Place: www.ospshasta.org
Highlights through the years:
2007: Q-97’s Patrick John became the first and only male champion of Dancing with the Stars: Shasta County Style (so far!).
2009: KRCR chief meteorologist Mike Krueger danced the “robot” to a standing ovation and received the Judge’s Choice Award.
2010: The Redding Rancheria’s Maria Orozco became the first and only star to win both the championship and theJudge’s Choice awards.
2012: Becky Riley of Sierra Pacific Industries raised $59,000, bringing the event total to more than $100,000 for the first time.
2013: Dee Domke had to pull out of the show two weeks before the event to tend to a family emergency. Her partner, Jordan Stevens, danced their routines with a stand in and won the championship.