Teddy Bear Ball 2020 Dancing for the Kids

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On April 24, the Grand Blanc Chamber of Commerce will host the 8th Annual Teddy Bear Ball at Genesys Conference & Banquet Center. According to Chamber President, Jet Kilmer, the event will feature live music, food, fun and a dancing competition to benefit the Genesee County Teddy Bear Patrol.

This event raises money to provide Teddy bears to all Genesee County law enforcement and first responders, as well as Hurley Medical Center Pediatrics, Genesys Regional Medical Center Emergency Room, and Whaley Children’s Center. Local police and fire departments use the bears to comfort children during traumatic experiences such as being lost, a home fire, home invasion, traffic accident or
domestic situation. The bears are made at St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center in Flint and will be available for sale during the Teddy Bear Ball.

Kilmer says that reviving the Teddy Bear Patrol has been a great partnership between herself and local businessman, Dave Donahue, for the last 12 years. “We saw the importance of providing children with these bears by way of Genesee County police departments,” she says. “That partnership enabled us to work with the talents of (local radio personalities) Johnny Burke and Lisa Marie, Sister Judy Blake and Sister Carol Weber of St. Luke’s, and (competitive dancer and instructor) Bob Budzynski. Together, we are able to make an impact. It’s Genesee County coming together to make sure that when a child is in a traumatic situation, one of our Flint-made bears can comfort them until we can make them feel safe again.”

The fundraiser is a success because of the support and hard work of everyone involved, the amateur and professional dancers, and the people of Genesee County, Kilmer adds. “So, we ask everyone to come out and support us one more time on April 24.”

Here is a look at this year’s dancers.


Pro Deborah White is dancing with Joe Sirl, Marketing & Public Relations at Fenton Winery & Brewery

Deborah White

White has danced for nearly 30 years and competed nationally with Bob Budzynski for seven years in West Coast Swing and Hustle, including three times at the U.S. Open Swing Dance Championships. “I’ve enjoyed dancing in each of the Teddy Bear events and have been amazed by the enthusiasm and dedication of every volunteer dancer who has participated!” White exclaims. “The Teddy Bear organization itself is a very worthy cause, both for the comfort it provides to children in crisis and the opportunity for local seamstresses who button up the bears!”

Joe Sirl

MCM: Why are you participating in the Teddy Bear Ball?

JS: Each layer of support offered by this event touches on elements of society I emphatically support. As the son of a retired Flint Community Schools kindergarten teacher, I’ve seen firsthand instances of the needs of many local children. It is imperative to be part of helping rather than saying it’s a shame and going about my day. I am also a firm believer in teaching skills and creating opportunity for the underemployed – in this instance, women in the community who work tirelessly to provide for others. St. Luke’s program is phenomenal at creating such an opportunity, giving a sense of pride and self-worth, and strengthening the foundation of every family they encounter. Of course, supporting first responders, who sacrifice daily for the benefit of others, showing them as leaders of decency and compassion is needed now more than ever.

MCM: What organization/nonprofit are you supporting?

JS: This starts with St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center and, therefore, it should be their day! My efforts, while minute in comparison, are in support of their mission.

MCM: Do you have dance experience?

JS: Other than the handful of practices so far for this event, there is no dance experience to speak of. I attended the Teddy Bear Ball as a spectator and donor last year, but have never competed.


Pro Michelle Lichtenberg is dancing with Aaron Hamp, Owner of INC Systems and President of POS of Michigan.

Michelle Lichtenberg

This is Lichtenberg’s seventh year of Dancing with the Local Stars, now the Teddy Bear Ball. “I have loved dancing since the time I was little and danced all the way through high school,” she says. “In college, I was on the Folk Dance and Ballroom Teams where I met my husband. I still love dancing with him and taking lessons from Bob Budzynski.” Lichtenberg teaches K–5 Performing Arts and is the dance instructor at Woodland Park Academy.

Aaron Hamp

MCM: Why are you participating in the Teddy Bear Ball?

AH: This is a wonderful event that does much good for our community. The Teddy bears are a comfort to children facing traumatic events and since they are made right here in Flint by the women of St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center, they provide an opportunity for these women to learn a new skill. To me, it’s a win/win!

MCM: What organization/nonprofit are you supporting?

AH: Whaley Children’s Center is an organization that touches my heart. They help children in our area who have already faced so much abuse and neglect in their young lives. Whaley not only gives them a chance to just be kids again, they also provide them with the skills necessary to thrive in life as adults.

MCM: Do you have dance experience?

AH: I can do ‘The Carlton’ – does that count?


Pro Alan Lichtenberg is dancing with Gerri Poage, Director of Events for My City Magazine.

Alan Lichtenberg

Lichtenberg has danced with Bob Budzynski’s Michigan Society of Swing & Hustle Dance for at least 12 years.

“I have participated in the last seven Teddy Bear Balls and enjoyed the experience,” he states. “I acquired my love of dance from my parents and appreciate any opportunity to dance!” A math and science teacher at Carman-Ainsworth Middle School, he also runs the after-school Drama Program.

Gerri Poage

MCM: Why are you participating in the Teddy Bear Ball?

GP: These Teddy bears serve as a tool that is greatly needed in the Greater Flint community. When handling delicate cases involving children, the police, fire department and court system need all the tools they can get! The beautiful bears are made in Flint and support the important sewing program at St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center. The Teddy Bear Ball is a win-win-win program!

MCM: What organization/nonprofit are you supporting?

GP: I am dancing for Wreaths Across America at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly. I have many veterans in my family and believe in the organization’s vision to “Remember, Honor and Teach.”


Pro Darrell Lyvere is dancing with Heather LeSage, Owner of Farm Bureau Insurance Agency.

Darrell Lyvere

Lyvere got involved in dancing by teaching at Fred Astaire in the late ’70s. “I received first place in the Michigan Classic and fourth place at the National Polka Festival,” he recalls. “I also taught at USA Dance and for the Great Lakes Dance Club.”

Heather LeSage

MCM: Why are you participating in the Teddy Bear Ball?

HL: Not only do I enjoy the Teddy Bear Ball more than any other Chamber event, the awareness and funds raised are so important! As a mother, I have such a fear of my children being lost in the shuffle, or having nothing to cling to if ever a tragedy was to strike. Knowing that first responders are not only out there looking after the little ones in our community, but that we are helping to provide them with tools like these Teddy bears to bring some comfort is the very least we can do. In addition, each dancer is bringing attention to another charity that needs support. This event is fun, but it also incorporates so many places and ways we can help those right here in Genesee County. It’s a great display of Grand Blanc showing up and pooling efforts to serve one another!

MCM: What organization/nonprofit are you supporting?

HL: I would like to highlight Grand Blanc Outreach, an up-and-coming nonprofit with a goal of providing community ministries and social services in the greater Grand Blanc community. This organization not only will provide emergency food and clothing, but will also support other services to those in need, including career, financial and nutrition counseling, health screenings, senior services, etc. There are so many needs our neighbors struggle with and GBO offers a place to go and retrieve the basic needs and skills required to take a next step.

MCM: Do you have dance experience?

HL: Not unless you count endless time spent on wedding and banquet dance floors! I’m the one who brings along a “tarp dance floor” on camping weekends or will be in the living room breaking it down with the kiddos. I love to dance! But as soon as there are actual, choreographed steps, I get totally lost. I always laugh that I need to and can only “freestyle!” My favorite element of any dance floor is just the laughter and fun – everyone is a friend when dancing together!


Pro Nadia Nard is dancing with Lawrence L. Walny, MD MS, Cardiac Anesthesiologist at Ascension Genesys Hospital.

Nadia Nard

A student teacher for Bob Budzynski, Michigan Swing Dance Productions, Michigan Society for Swing and Hustle Dancers, Nard helps new students with footwork and styling and as such, is a valuable asset to Bob’s lessons. She brings fun and plenty of stage presence to this, her first performance at the Teddy Bear Ball.

Dr. Lawrence L. Walny

MCM: Why are you participating in the Teddy Bear Ball?

LW: This event promotes happiness, generosity, joy and caring for social benefit and fulfillment of those in need.

MCM: What nonprofit/organization are you supporting?

LW: I am a supporter of children through the Smile Train, Save the Children, St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospitals for Children.

MCM: Do you have dance experience?

LW: I am a social dancer who enjoys dancing for the music, social interaction and community, as well as the combined cognitive and motor benefits. There is always room for improvement, to learn, and it’s always a party to enjoy!


Pro Frank Patrello is dancing with Susan Garontakos, Manager at Al Serra Auto Plaza (ten years) and retired GM manager (over 30 years).

Frank Patrello

Patrello has been a member of the Society Dance Team for many years and has always been a vocal leader of the team, according to Bob Budzynski, Michigan Society of Swing & Hustle Dance. “This is his first performance for the Teddy Bear Ball and we look forward to seeing what he brings to the floor with his first-time partner.”

Susan Garontakos

MCM: Why are you participating in the Teddy Bear Ball?

SG: My primary reason is that I feel it is a purposeful, awesome event that benefits so many people on so many levels, and I would like to give back by being an active participant to raise additional funds. It also supports and recognizes the people at the forefront who give all they have to protect and take care of the people in our local communities. They are the warriors who get it done!

MCM: What organization/nonprofit are you supporting?

SG: St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center’s PURPOSE is to nurture women to become independent and create better lives for themselves, and they should be recognized for their commitment and accomplishments. I LOVE the concept of people in need helping people in need, which seems to be St. Luke’s vision and drive.

MCM: Do you have dance experience?

SG: Nothing formal, only some casual dancing at weddings or other occasions. I can be considered a “rookie learning from a pro.”


Pro Barry Douglas is dancing with Amber Taylor, Executive Director of Back to the Bricks.

Barry Douglas

An internationally recognized member of the dance community, Douglas has over 40 years of training in five dance genres. His student base spans 17 countries and his certifications include Dance Masters of America, Dance Educators of America, the National Dance Council of America and the National Swing Dance Council. Douglas been honored as a Master Jazz Choreographer and has held multiple State, Regional and National titles. This is his fourth Teddy Bear Ball and he has brought home one mirror ball trophy. Having owned a dance studio teaching hundreds of children, as well as having his own children and grandchildren, he is thrilled to support a community program that makes such a profound difference to kids when they need it most.

Amber Taylor

MCM: Why are you participating in the Teddy Bear Ball?

AT: I get involved in anything that helps children. It is so important to remember that they are impacted by everything and anything that happens to their parents, guardians and caregivers. I, myself, needed comfort from officials at a very young age during a traumatic family experience. I believe they truly are there to protect, serve and comfort. Providing first responders with the bears makes it easier for them to connect to children in need, help them feel safe and as comforted as possible during what could be one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives.

MCM: What organization/nonprofit are you supporting?

AT: Whaley Children’s Center is my charity of choice. I am active in fundraising for them year-round, take part in their events and stand behind their mission. I believe they provide a true safe space for children that is, unfortunately, greatly needed in Genesee County.

MCM: Do you have dance experience?

AT: In high school, I was a competitive cheerleader, took part in anything musical and performed in theater. I love almost all musical genres including country, hip hop, R&B and even techno. When the tunes start popping, I am always dancing!


Pro Susan Douglas is dancing with Jay Rosebrough, Salesperson for Falcon Carpet Services.

Susan Douglas

Douglas has spent the past 20 years helping many of America’s greatest brands define who they are and what they aspire to be. Her work has spanned multiple business categories and includes strategic thought leadership in developing cutting edge integrated communications campaigns. She has created and managed large national events such as the Dodge Viper Owners Invitational and Camp Jeep, as well as managed major events commemorating Pace Cars of the Indy 500. She has orchestrated movie premier events with Disney, taking over more than 900 theaters around the U.S. in a single day and brought multiple clients into the motorsports world of NASCAR. “As a former U.S. National baton-twirling champion, certified teacher, judge and performer, I am excited to use my passion for dance and the performing arts to make a difference for kids in Genesee County,” she states. Dancing in her third Teddy Bear Ball, Susan and her first partner received the People’s Choice Award.

Jay Rosebrough

MCM: Why are you participating in the Teddy Bear Ball?

JR: My support for this event is two-fold: People in the community learn a marketable skill, and children going through difficult situations receive a bear to help comfort them. More importantly, my wife said I would do it!

MCM: What organization/nonprofit are you supporting?

JR: I would like to bring awareness to Head for the Cure, an organization that puts on a 5K Run/Walk to support and honor those who have fought brain tumors. Head for the Cure also supports the Brain Tumor Trials Collaborative. My good friend, Pete Morris, lost his fight with glioblastoma in 2018.

MCM: Do you have dance experience?

JR: There is a direct correlation between an open bar and my dance experience, so to say I’m nervous is an understatement! But I am excited. I have only attended the Teddy Bear Ball, never participated.

 

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