When Jessica Botelho was a reporter for the Warwick Beacon over a decade ago, she first learned about Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring after doing a story about it.
Now this year, she will be one of the nine dancers on stage with the goal of raising as much money as possible for Mentor Rhode Island.
“It's very humbling to say the least,” said Botelho.
Botelho is a digital field reporter for NBC 10 and was doing a story a couple of years ago when she casually asked Jo-Ann Schofield, the President and CEO of Mentor RI when she was going to be asked to dance for the fundraiser.
Then on the day after Thanksgiving, Botelho got an email from Schofield asking her to dance in this year’s event.
Her instant reaction was “absolutely.”
“There was no hesitation,” Botelho said.
First in person event since 2019
This year’s Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring marks its 15th year, it's also the first time the event will be held indoors since 2019.
“In 2020 we held the event but we had to postpone it to the fall and we followed the Governor’s advice at the time to ‘take it outside,’” said Marc Mainville Director of Mentoring Services. “We held it on the grounds of Aldrich Mansion, pre-taped the dances and did it drive-in style.”
Although the fundraising was down compared to previous years Mainville said that the event still went well.
Since the event in 2020 was much later than normal, Mainville said a decision was made to not have it in 2021, so that way the event could go back to taking place during the spring and not be permanently during the fall.
“Going more than a calendar year without our biggest fundraiser was tough but we’re hopeful we can recapture the momentum this event had prior to Covid,” Mainville said. “In the past this event has seen more than 500 attendees and netted the organization more than $100,000 while we may not quite reach those numbers this year simply being able to hold the event in the traditional way and raising significant funds for the cause is a step in the right direction after the last two years.”
The event will be held on March 25 at the Rhodes on the Pawtuxet from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Aside from the dance competition, the evening includes dinner, a silent auction and the traditional wine bag surprise.
As part of the event Botelho and the other dancers are tasked with raising as much money as possible before the event.
Botelho said she interviewed Debbie Wood for a story and chatted with her about being in the dance competition.
Wood asked how she could help.
“I thought it was fabulous,” said Wood.
Knowing that it is difficult to fundraise especially during the pandemic, Wood agreed to sell products from her business We Be Jammin which is located on West Shore Road. On Feb. 19 Botelho, Wood and her son Jason sold the products at the information booth at the Warwick Mall. All the proceeds went to Botelho’s fundraising efforts. In total $1,000 worth of product was sold.
“Her generosity is so moving,” Botelho said.
Wood said that We Be Jammin was started for her son Jason, who is on the Autism Spectrum in 2014 as a way to help him with his social and other skills. She said that she tries to find places for him to go to in the community and said that helping out with the fundraiser was a good opportunity for him as well.
“It's great, I think it's fabulous, it's a win-win for everyone,” said Wood.
Botelho said that she is close to meeting her $2,500 goal but is going to continue to raise as much as she can.
“I'm not going to stop,” Botelho said.
Aside from raising money for the organization, there are also bragging rights on the line.
The dancer who raises the most funds before and during the event is crowned with the People’s Choice Award. In addition, the dancers are in competition for the best technical dance and the most entertaining dance awards.
Mainville said that the stars are guided through the dance process by a professional dancer from The Dancing Feeling in Warwick.
“Noah Carsten, of The Dancing Feeling in Warwick, is not only my dance instructor, he's also teaching one of my fellow competitors,” said Botelho. “He has been so encouraging, which is giving me the confidence I need to dance in front of hundreds of people. Whoever matched us did a great (job) just because he's fun, knowledgeable, and easy to work with. He's also a great dancer.”
Botelho said that she is thankful for the staff at Mentor Rhode Island for believing in her.
“With that said, it’s not about me; it’s about the children who deserve role models and all the programs that support the efforts of not only the staff members at MentorRI, but the men and women who serve as mentors,” said Botelho. “These children and teenagers need to know that people outside their families care about them and want to see them thrive. They are the future, and this is one way to show them how invested we are in their lives.”
In addition to Botelho the other dancers in this year’s event include:
Bruno Costa – Amica Insurance
Kathy Fava – Lifespan
Julie Matthew – Amgen
Suzanne Ramponi – Your Soul Discovery
Michael J Rossi, Jr. – MJR Entertainment, Owner and DJ
Chris Stewart – MENTOR Rhode Island
Cindy Vento Sewall – Arbonne International
Jeremy VonFlatern – Province Mortgage
The hosts are Heather Gersten from Lite Rock 105 and Mario Hilario from NBC10.
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