Dancing with the Story County Stars

Danielle Ferguson

Dance shoes, flashy moves and toe-tapping tunes showcased a cause worth waltzing for.

Sponsored by the Waterford at Ames, Heartland Senior Services held their first-time fundraiser, Dancing with the Story County Stars, the evening of Jan. 11 in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

Seven local celebrities from throughout Story County were matched with dance instructors, some from the ISU Cyclone Ballroom Club, to dance a 90 second routine to collect votes and raise money for Heartland.

Elizabeth Beck, executive director of Heartland, said there are approximately 12,000 senior citizens in Story County.

Heartland is located in Ames, but offers services for seniors over the age of 60 throughout all of Story County. Some services include the adult day center, where seniors can go to play board games, take Zumba classes or learn about computers.

Heartland also provides home-delivered meals, other nutrition help, outreach and community resources. Volunteers are depended upon for all services, said Jan Williams, Heartland development and marketing director.

Williams said volunteers are a mix of high school students, local citizens and ISU students. She also said she would welcome more college-aged volunteers.

Williams said the event took roughly a year to plan and Beck said the dancers started rehearsing their assigned dances in September.

Seven couples performed a variety of dances including the waltz, cha-cha, swing, rumba, tango, with two couples performing a foxtrot in front of a nearly 200 member audience.

Donations could have been made on behalf of a couple prior to the competition. A combination of prior donations, judges’ scores and audience votes decided the winning pair. Votes were tallied by dollar donation per couple. One dollar equals one vote.

One judge, Brian Dieter, CEO of Mary Greeley Medical Center, said, “I’m a big dance fan. I thought it would be great to be able to help Heartland spread what it is they do for seniors.”

Another judge, Kristin Pates from United Way of Story County said her judging criteria were based on if a couple was having fun and how they demonstrated technical difficulty.

“[I’m looking for] someone who is making the night extra special,” Pates said.

After four performances, guests were invited to occupy the dance floor with their own moves. Later, Cyclone Ballroom Club members Seth Wilharm and Amy Dorie performed a special dance which they choreographed and rehearsed in three days before the show.

Following intermission, the final three couples performed, and while votes were tallied, guests were again invited to the dance floor.

Mel Crippin of KASI Radio, who emceed the event, made the announcement of the winners to be Liz Hertz from Burke Corporation and partner Don Boyle who performed the waltz.

“It was fun. I was nervous,” Hertz said. “I was really excited when they called me and asked me to be part of this fundraiser. I think Heartland Senior Services is a great asset for our county and they provide services that really no one else is doing.”

Hertz and Boyle received a score of 10 out of 10 from all three judges. Two trophies were given: one for which couple raised the most money total, and the other for who received the most votes that night, both of which Hertz and Boyle received.

The third judge, Stewart Burger, ISU lecturer in apparel, events and hospitality management, described the pair’s performance as “elegant and flowing off the floor.”

At the end of the night, $3,500 was received from audience votes and an anonymous donor contributed $1,000 per couple and $500 in for Heartland, totaling $11,000 raised that night for Heartland Senior Services. Heartland staff members did not have the total amount of donations made prior to the event.

Heartland is also funded through ASSET of Story County, United Way of Story County, Aging Resources of Iowa and private donations.

Beck said there are hopes for doing this fundraising event again next year.

“It turned out being fun,” said performer Victoria Szopinski, former Ames City Council member. “I’ve never done this ballroom dancing before and now I’m hooked.”