Each year it is an absolute joy to be part of Dancing with the Arc Stars. Even though I share photos after each event, I have never felt I’ve done justice to the organization of Easter Seals Arc. They do so much for their consumers. This year I thought I would ask Valerie Magana, Marketing & Development Director at Easter Seals Arc for some details on the Dancing with the Arc Stars event, and Easter Seals Arc.
Enjoy her words and the highlights of this very, very special event. I can’t express into words how much I love photographing this event. The dances this year were bigger and better than ever! The smiles and the joy were beautiful. And the hearts of those attending and participating were filled to the brim.
Now I present to you Valerie Magana and Dancing with the Arc Stars 2015.
Amy: Explain to the readers the mission of Easter Seals Arc.
Valerie: The mission of Easter Seals Arc is to provide exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities or special needs and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities. We offer day programs such as our Adult Day Center, Transitions Day Services for those from 18-30, iTeens which is an after school program for 13-19 year olds, Dream Teens, a summer program for 13-19 year olds, and Projects DRIVE Group which employees consumers in a manufacturing facility. We also offer Behavioral Services, Respite Care, & Residential Services.
Amy: What is Dancing with the Arc Stars?
Valerie: Dancing with the Arc Stars is a fundraiser that pairs our ballroom dancers with local “celebrities” and they dance for votes (monetary).
Amy: How/when did the vision for this event come to be?
Valerie: Our former CEO was a ballroom dancer and introduced ballroom dancing to our consumers. It was beautiful to see the joy that both the clients and their partners experienced when they competed in the Special Olympics so we thought we would like to share it with the community. As far as we know, Indiana is the only state that has ballroom dance as part of their competition. The event began 6 years ago; however, many of the consumers have been dancing for about 8 years.
Amy: How are the celebrities for the event chosen?
Valerie: The celebrities come through many avenues. Of course, we contacted people that we did business with or were close to us in some way in the beginning. Now, some companies have made a commitment to this event and they choose someone from their organization to take part. We also receive referrals from prior dancers, people who have attended in the past who express an interest, organizations & people who are close to us, families of our clients and anyone we may come in contact with.
Amy: What kind of training goes into preparing for the big event?
Valerie: Patric Didier and his team of professionals of Ballroom on the Landing and Jeanne Cross agree to mentor the couples. We hold a “Meet & Greet” in November where the instructors, consumers and community members meet, partner up and decide on a style of dance. Rehearsals begin the week after Thanksgiving. They rehearse once weekly for 45 minutes until the event which is usually in February. The couples work with their professional instructors, choose a song, and work on costumes if needed. The instructors all donate their time and talents for this event. The community members also work on fundraising. They are provided with a web page that they can send to their friends, family, etc., to raise funds. They also try to get their employers, friends, family, etc. to buy tickets, tables, or be a sponsor of the event.
Amy: How do the funds raised benefit Easter Seals Arc?
Valerie: The funds raised go towards our Recreation program which serves not only Easter Seals Arc consumers but anyone who has a developmental disability and would like to participate. The recreation program gives our consumers the opportunity to attend sporting events, movies, festivals, concerts, participate in bowling, compete in Special Olympics in Terre Haute, compete in Special Olympic Ballroom Dance, eat out with a group of their friends and many other activities. Most of our folks would not be able to experience all our community has to offer without this program. It also generates feelings of belonging as well as stimulates them socially, physically, and mentally.