Benefit raised over $32K for NEST Community Learning Center
By Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH (November 23, 2020) – Stepping up and out for the kids proved more than just a tagline for the NEST Dancing with the Stars charity benefit held Friday, October 23, at the Oasis Conference Center in Loveland, Ohio.
It’s hard to say exactly how many volunteers it took to organize and coordinate the 2nd Annual Dancing with the Stars benefit for the Nest Community Learning Center, but it is easy to say each one stepped up and out to help others during this COVID-19 pandemic year. Imagine the effort that went into planning the event this year. NEST founder Evangeline (Van) DeVol hesitated to use the word agonized to describe the decision-making process to try to plan an event they knew they needed to have and, frankly, they wanted to have. How do you invest money, volunteer time and energy in an event that may be cancelled? They did it.
“Overall, we were pleasantly surprised with the outcome,” said DeVol. “We had a lot of concerns about trying to do something like this during this COVID season of our lives.”
The 2020 NEST DWTS raised more than $32,000 to support the work of the NEST Community Learning Center and the kids they serve.
They hoped for it, but no one on the NEST team could have expected it. NEST needed to do it. They are a non-profit organization dependent upon, and very grateful for the generosity of the public donations and volunteers. Their staff of volunteers wanted to do it for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was to give the community a chance to get out. It had to be different, and it was. It had to be done in a safe environment with ALL COVID Safety Protocols in place. They were. I know. I was there.
I felt honored to have the privilege of serving as one of five judges – not necessarily for my knowledge or expertise on dancing, but maybe for my ability to recognize creativity, energy, enthusiasm, entertainment, and effort. The effort, creativity and energy began well before that Friday evening in October. DeVol credits April Braddock for coming up with the idea for married couples to dance this year instead of the normal “celebrity” with a professional. This year the six couples included: Phil and Suzanne Beck, Jim and Suzi Cree, Andy and Anette Friesner, Desmon and Brittany Gault, Shawn and Stacey Miller, Nick and Rami Winnenberg. Yes, each couple did receive training from a professional dance coach to prepare.
It showed. The audience (141 patrons compared to 289 last year) and the judges: Elonzo Coppins with Fully Loaded Dance Studios, Emilie LaRosa with Broadway Bound, Angie McNeil with Premier Studio for Dance, Dr. Amy Crouse, and me, were all entertained by great creative showmanship, choreography, energy and some pretty good technical execution of a variety of dance styles. I’d love to break it each dance number down for you with vivid descriptions of the costumes and characters, but I could never do their performances justice with words. I’ll just say all six couples scored high with all the judges. By now you are either dying to know who won (NEST WON, The Kids they Serve WON, The patrons won, we all won) or you already heard the exciting news. Trust me, it was a very difficult choice to select one couple over all the rest, but we did.
CONGRATULATIONS GO TO THE 2020 NEST Dancing with the Stars Mirror Ball Winner: Stacey and Shawn Miller. They lit up the floor with their characters, costumes, creativity and boy can those two dance. It didn’t hurt them with this judge that they danced to the sound of “Sing, Sing, Sing” a swing dance classic and a personal favorite of mine. Stacey Miller recalled the moment they were announced as the winner.
“Oh my gosh, just ecstatic,” she said. “We were practicing a lot. I had the husband anyway that was ‘I’m the Show Choir Director and I have to prove I can not only teach this, but I can try to do it myself. We were thrilled. What a great honor.”
When it was over, they both told one another they were proud of each other. They should have been. It was clear throughout their performance they were having fun. The audience had fun too. It was my first time judging, so when another judge gave me the tip to watch for the audience reaction, that meant a lot.
“We put in the work and actually didn’t produce a half-bad dance routine here,” Stacey said with true humility. “We pulled it off.”
Not only did Stacey and Shawn Miller “pull it off” so did the entire NEST team. The volunteers somehow managed to produce a live dance competition event for a live audience with a dinner and silent auction against all odds during a pandemic. It truly was great fun for all despite the strictly enforced COVID health and safety restrictions.
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2020 NEST DWTS “PEOPLE’S CHOICE Winner: Brittany and Desmon Gault. They collected the most donations during the event (Guests paid $1 each to vote for their People’s Choice couple). Brittany & Desmon earned $605 in People’s Choice votes.
CONGRATULATIONS ALSO GO TO THE 2020 NEST “STEPPING UP” AWARD Winner: Annette and Andy Friesner. As part of the competition, each of the six couples did fundraising prior to the event. The Friesner’s raised $3,320.14 to earn the “Stepping Up” award for raising the most of the six couples. Overall, the six married couples combined to raise $11,403.35
In the dance competition, judges scores decided the top three couples. They were:
1st place and the Mirror Ball Trophy went to Stacey and Shawn Miller.
2nd place went to Brittany and Desmon Gault
3rd place went to Nick and Rami Winnenberg
“To be able to help kids like this,” Stacey Miller said. ”To us it is amazing.”
As we all pause this week to give thanks during our celebration of Thanksgiving, let us give thanks to ALL THE NEST staff and volunteer team for what they give to our community.
THANK YOU NEST COMMUNITY LEARING CENTER FOR ALL YOU DO TO SERVE OUR COMMUNITY!
Here are a few of the key people and sponsors who made the NEST 2020 Dancing with the Stars benefit AMAZING!
Masters of Ceremonies: Shane Harden & Matt Ball
Professional Dance Coaches: Leigh Bradshaw with Cincinnati Ballroom, Josh Tilford with Dance Manor, Bonita Brockert with www.ballroomdancecincinnati.com, Maura Garuccio with www.mauragaruccio.com, Christian Graff with Phoenix Rising Latin & Ballroom,Jeremy & Desiree Mainous with Arthur Murray Dance Centers
Presenting Sponsor – Feazel – Other sponsors – EXP Realty, Designed 2 Sell Team; J. R. Thomas Landscaping; Inc. and Oasis Turf & Tree
Donated services or goods came from: Jim and Carol Hall with The Picture Party Place provided all the audio for the event
Harden Photography took photos of guests as they arrived at the Step and Repeat
Chris Granger photographed all of the dancing segment
Desserts donated by: Barb says “It’s a Piece of Cake”, Cocoa Bites, Cookies by Jillian, Dessert Fairy, Gigi’s Cupcakes, Loveland Sweets, Trailside Provisions
Special thanks to the NEST Fundraising Team: Leah Moss, Kate Harden, Susan Wolf, Lesley Moore, Lara Ferrer, Erin Huff, Betsey Shanahan, Elizabeth Wenger and the NEST executive staff.