Dancing With the Stars is back

April event to benefit local United Way

Sentinel file photo
Will Campbell and Christina Calkins-Mazur performed a swing dance to the song ‘Candy Man’ during the inaugural Mifflin-Juniata United-Way Dancing with the Stars fundraising event last May. Campbell and Calkins-Mazur won the Judge’s Choice trophy as well as People’s Choice award.

MILROY — Back by popular demand, the United Way of Mifflin-Juniata will present its second annual “Dancing With the Stars” event April 4 at the Londonderry Restaurant in Milroy.

The event, which raised $20,000 for the local United Way a year ago, is going to be just a bit bigger than last year, with room for more people to come enjoy the fun, said United Way director Oksana DeArment.

“We have a total of 250 tickets this year, which is an increase from last year,” she said. “Last year, we sold out of tickets pretty quickly, so we’re hoping that by making more seats available, more people can join in.”

The inaugural event in 2019 proved to be a smash hit as local “stars” were paired up with one another to put on a dance routine that would wow the crowd enough to “vote” for them by way of donating to the local United Way.

There was also a panel of judges giving their opinions on everything from the dancing to the amount of fun the couples seemed to be having while performing.

And as far as DeArment and the United Way are concerned, the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rings true.

“In general, it’s the same,” DeArment said. “We just tweaked some things, just how we interact with potential dancers. Sharing info, being on the same page. That’s the info we tweaked. Tickets are exactly the same price as last year ($40). We decided to keep it fairly the same from last year and see how it goes this year. Maybe next year we will revisit changes, but for this year, we kept things pretty much the same as last year.”

This year’s six dancing duos are: John Pannizzo (owner of Downtown OIP and Grille) and Karin Knode (Director of TIU Community Education and Workforce Services); Jeff Davis (attorney at Torquato Law Office) and Dr. Karina Henriquez-Cedeno (medical director at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital Sleep Center); John Sipe (Derry Township Supervisor) and Mary Woods (Lewistown Police Department detective and school resource officer); Aaron Amspacker (owner of J.P. Edward’s Grill and Bar) and Heather Bradshaw (owner of Vibe Hair and Nail Salon); Larry Welshans (retired teacher; deacon at Lewistown Presbyterian Church) and Staci Lerch (manager of Lerch RV); and Isaiah Wisehaupt (CSO at Pennian Bank Mifflintown office) and Holly Tusing (branch executive officer for Fermanagh and main offices of Pennian Bank).

This year’s judges will be state Rep. John Hershey (who danced in last year’s event), local musician Chris Ruble and Judy Stroup, who formerly owned a dance studio in Lewistown.

The dancers were chosen in October and November and started practicing in January, DeArment said. That gave the duos three months to perfect their routines with the help of an experienced dance instructor.

“As a couple, they decide on a song they like, then, they, with their choreographer, put together a routine of about two minutes,” DeArment said. “(Three months) is a good amount of time to learn the routine. They’re doing this for a good cause and giving their free time to fund raise for us, so we want to help them out as much as we can.”

The participating couples — a mixture of volunteers and people who were recruited — are each expected to raise at least $1,000 before performance night. The winning couple gets to take home a trophy and bragging rights in addition to the memories of doing something outside of most of their comfort zones, as none of the participants have much in the way of dancing experience, at least as adults.

“I don’t think any of the ones we have have any dancing experience,” DeArment said. “Maybe some of them took dance class as a child, but it’s not like any of them are professional dancers or anything like that.”

While the event itself is April 4, the United Way is seeking sponsors. There are three levels of sponsorship. The upper two tiers come with tickets to the show. Gold level sponsors are provided their own table of eight seats at the event, but are no longer available. Silver level sponsorships, which are still available, are provided four tickets. Bronze sponsors make a donation, but do not receive any tickets. The deadline to become a sponsor is Feb. 28 and those interested can reach out to DeArment via email at odearment@mjunitedway.org or by calling (717) 248-9636, extension 303.

Once sponsorships are sold, the participating dancers will have the next opportunity to buy tickets for their friends and family to attend. Any tickets that remain will go on sale to the general public beginning March 2.

“We made $20,000 for United Way toward our fundraising campaign and we made goal last year for the first time in close to 10 years because of the event,” DeArment said. “We hope it continues to be successful and fun for us.”