‘Dancing With The Stars’

Last year’s winners of the “Heart to Heart Dancing with the Stars” benefit for the River City Domestic Violence Center and River City Family Connections were Mike and Mary Lee Villanueva.

Six local couples will dance their way into the hearts of Yankton residents Saturday to help River City Domestic Violence Center (RCDVC) and Family Connections in its efforts to deal with victims of abuse.

The 2020 “Heart to Heart Dancing with the Stars” event is set for Jan. 18 at the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center.

The festivities begin with a social hour at 7 p.m. followed by the dancing event at 8 p.m. as well as sweets, treats and little eats.

In addition to having a chance to meet the staff of RCDVC and Family Connections, attendees will see a video that shows the types of issues they deal with on a day-to-day basis.

This year’s teams include: Jill Sternquist and Jason Nelson, Jason and Chloe Foote; Steve and Tracy Huff, Lisa Carson-Kneifl and Kelly Kneifl, Murray and Megan McGlone, and Erica and Cody Garvey.

This will be the first year to include a father-daughter.

“We have something really special this year: Cdr. Foote and his daughter are dancing,” Desiree Johnson, executive director of RCDVC told the Press & Dakotan. “Seeing a daddy out there with his daughter — being a strong role model and a hero in our community — is a community treasure to see.”

Returning this year as MC will be Matt Hunhoff, who has participated in the event for the last five years — three as MC, one as a judge and one as a dancer with his wife Kelsey.

This year’s judges are Adam Hardy, Eric Hardy and Hannah Nooney.

“This event has been going on since 2014,” Johnson said. “This event … has raised over $100,000 to support victim services in Yankton.”

At the annual fundraiser, dancers compete to collect pledges for the domestic violence shelter.

“We determine who the winner is by how much money they raise,” Johnson said. “One dollar counts as one vote.”

Dance teams started collecting money three weeks ago and will collect more money after their performances Saturday.

“Each couple will be dancing to one song, and after the song, they will be critiqued by the judges and given a score,” Johnson said. “Then, Mount Marty College students and the dancers will go out into the crowd to collect the pledges.”

The votes are tallied by a behind-the-scenes counting team that posts up-to-the-minute scores for the audience.

Though many people enjoy dancing, organizers chose dancing couples for this particular event for another reason: to demonstrate healthy interactions between couples — the opposite of situations involving domestic violence.

“When you have two people coming together to dance, they really have to be in the same mindset and have a respect for each other so that they can be successful,” Johnson said. “I think that’s very powerful, when you see these married couples getting out there and hitting the dance floor, and they are on the same page with life and with each other.”

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For more information, email Johnson at desiree@yanktonwebelieve.org or call RCDVC at (605)665-4811. Tickets are almost sold out. Any attire is acceptable. Eat dinner before you come.

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