Dancing for a Cause

by Gabrielle Balzell

Five local celebrities strap on their dancing shoes to help children in need.

On November 3rd, several well-known community figures will salsa, tango and waltz their way across the dance floor to help abused and neglected children in Peoria County at this year’s CASAblanca –Dancing With the (Local) Stars event.

Since its creation in 2005, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Peoria County has stood up for hundreds of children in the juvenile justice and foster care system, ensuring that each and every child has access to a safe, permanent home. The nonprofit group’s 45 volunteers help to provide representation and stability in their worlds—something that wouldn’t be possible without fundraisers like the seventh annual CASAblanca, a night of fun and fierce competition.

“When Hassan and I met each other, we knew we were a good match because we’re both very competitive,” says Jennifer Robin, co-chair of the 2012 event and winner of last year’s competition, along with her dance instructor Hassan Wehbe. “There were some difficult moves in our routine… [and] I fell a couple of times as we were learning them, but it ended up being a lot of fun.”

This year’s competitors will no doubt have similar experiences after practicing several hours a week over the last four months, under the guidance of instructors from Body Fitness, City Vibe, Cornerstone Academy of Performing Arts, Peoria Ballet and Peoria Latin Vibe. The celebrities dancing this year include:

  • Sandy Gallant, WEEK-TV
  • Mary Pille, AAIM Employers’ Association
  • Aneta Youngblood, Caterpillar Inc.
  • Greg Batton, 1470 WMBD
  • Ron Drane, Busey Bank.

“We’ve been really lucky,” adds Robin, when asked how the celebrity dancers are selected. “Every year, people who see the event get really excited about it, and sort of throw their hat in the ring. So we usually have a pretty big pool of people to pick from… They do a lot of good for the community.”

A panel of celebrity judges, along with votes from the audience, will determine the winning team of this year’s dance-off. Competitors also have the chance to win the People’s Choice Award through online donations—which count as votes—at casapeoria.org.

Besides the tricky steps and glitzy wardrobe, CASAblanca will also feature hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, live music and more. The event will take place on November 3rd in the Par-A-Dice Hotel Ballroom, and all proceeds will benefit CASA of Peoria County. For more information, call (309) 669-2939. a&s