Not only did the Dancing with the Easter Seals Stars event celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2020, but the Feb. 28 event also raised a record $85,665 to support the work Easter Seals does on behalf of children with physical disabilities.
Entitled the Battle Back Edition, this year's competition pit former performers against one another in a bid for dancing supremacy.
After months of training and one evening of putting all that training to work, Marissa Arnold of RE/MAX Crown Realty and her pro partner, professional dancer René Gagné, were crowned the winners.
“What an amazing feeling! Not only did we win the competition, we helped raise a ton of money for a great cause, which is the real prize,” Arnold told Sudbury.com. “A lot of practice leading up to the day, but the nerves still got to us a bit. Even though this is a charity event, we still put pressure on ourselves to put on a good show (and not fall flat on our faces), and I hope we did that.
“Rene is at outstanding dancer, and I am so lucky to have been trained by him.”
Joanne Bowers, a development officer for Easter Seals in northeastern Ontario, was blown away by both the dancers and the record amount of money raised to support Easter Seals programs, $85,665.
“The performances this year were spectacular in our Battle Back Edition! The success resulting from the hard work and effort by the dancers, organizing committee, staff and volunteers is a big win for the organization,” Bowers said. “We are also pleased to announce that this event which was first held in Sudbury in 2011 is now in 13 cities across Ontario and has raised $3,237,885 for kids with physical disabilities.
“Thank you to everyone involved, our sponsors, audience and especially our Easter Seals Ambassadors Sebastien Parent and Sierra Neville. I would also like to thank our special guest performers Guy Faucher and Louise Tremblay-Croxall (2019 North Bay DWESS Winners), Jan Fregonese Cabaret Dancers, Dan Kaltiainen and Lucie Lacroix, Bayani and Lorna Maristela, as well as the Senior Competitive Dancers from Dance Evolution, whose performances were outstanding.”
Rounding out the top three were Ryan Carbone of Cambrian College and his pro partner, Kennedy Much of Happiness Is Dancing in second place. In third was Cyndi Ingleton of RE/MAX Crown Realty and her pro partner, Bayani Maristela of Jan Fregonese Dance School.
Carbone and Munch were also the top fundraisers, bringing in a whopping $12,000.
The full list of competitors includes:
Marc Chouinard – HUB International Limited
Pro Partner: Angela Pepin (Jan Fregonese Dance School)
Anne Salter Dorland- Sudbury Manitoulin Children’s Foundation
Pro Partner: Bob Leduc (Jan Fregonese Dance School)
Candace Larsen – Laurentian University
Pro Partner: Tommy Ajayi (Professional Dancer)
Phil Mullin – The Car Lot etc.
Pro Partner: Zoi Monroy (Zoi Monroy Dance Studio)
Tristan Ritchie – Lake City Realty LTD
Pro Partner: Toni Calabrese (Jan Fregonese Dance School)
Leslie VanWallegham – Rainbow District School Board
Pro Partner: Dennis Harasymchuk (Ballroom Dance Studios)
The 2020 competition judges were:
Stef Paquette – Singer/Songwriter/Actor
Ashley Burton – Dance Teacher/Choreographer
Sue Lekun – Rotary Club of Sudbury Sunrisers/IVEY Group
Alex Hindmarch – Rewind 103.9
Proceeds from the event help provide funding for essential mobility and accessibility equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, porch lifts and ramps, as well as communication devices to families who require additional help and support in raising a child with a physical disability.
They also provide opportunities for kids to experience a stay at one of the charity's fully accessible summer camps — Camp Woodeden in London, Ont. or Camp Merrywood near Perth, Ont.