Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Dancing to support people with disabilities

Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published March 14, 2019

Heads Up! This article is 3 years old.

With its instantly recognizable hook, referencing one of the most popular competitive shows on television, Dancing with the Arc Stars has become a popular event for Easterseals Arc.

Now in its 11th season, the event serves to raise both funds and friends for the organization which serves people with disabilities in northeast Indiana, helping them to remain independent while also offering support for family members. Although Easterseals receives government funding, there is a gap between that funding and what is needed to fully provide their wide range of services.

And that’s where Dancing with the Arc Stars has been so valuable.

An Elegant Evening

Although it began a decade ago, the last few Dancing events have been overseen by Sheri Ward, director of development for Easterseals Arc. Under her watch, the event moved to the Grand Wayne Center, and it is there that this year’s event will take place on March 21.

The evening features 10 couples — 10 community volunteers and 10 Easterseals Arc clients — competing through dance and fundraising.

“Ballroom dancing is one of our therapies so we have volunteer instructors work with the couples for about 10 weeks,” Ward said. “The event at the Grand Wayne is semi-formal, so it’s an elegant evening, and dinner is provided. We have about 600 guests who watch 10 dances, and along the way we can share our mission and learn about the participants and their stories. I never leave that evening with dry eyes. There are so many emotions that night as you see the progress that they’re making. It really helps raise awareness for our programs.”

Donations can be made online or by phone, and last year the event raised $130,000 toward Arc’s programming.

Staying Grand

Now in its third year at the venue, the Grand Wayne has allowed all of the supporting elements, such as lighting and sound, to improve, and a DVD is now being made of the evening and is available to participants soon after the event.

Aside from the financial benefits of the night, Ward said that the familiarity with the name, Dancing with the Arc Stars, helps them find new areas for sponsors, donations and volunteers.

“I can advertise all day long, but if people aren’t connecting, then they aren’t going to be interested,” she said. “These dancers are coming out of their comfort zones, and they’re bringing in family and friends to support them. That’s when they can see what our mission is and who it supports. When people come in and see what a friend or family member is doing, it helps us tap into another market.”

Following up after the event also helps keep people connected, and the more support Easterseals Arc receives, the better they can fulfill their promise to the disabled community of northeast Indiana.

“We follow up with a story or two and show how that money is being utilized and how it helped someone,” Ward said. “Once people see what we’re doing, they want to come back. Maybe they’ll look into an employment opportunity or volunteer. Some prefer to work directly with the people we serve, but others can help just through our events. We have a carnival this summer and need volunteers to help with that. So there are many ways to support us.”

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