October 26, 2014
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Local celebrities cut a rug for RI Mentoring Partnership
Jessica A. Botelho
FEELIN’ IT: As they rehearse for the sixth annual Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring competition, which will take place April 26 at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston from 5:30 to 9 p.m., attorney John Carroll and dance instructor Rachael Capodanno strike a pose. Funds raised will benefit the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership, a non-profit organization that mentors more than 5,500 children statewide.

While the participants of the sixth annual Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring event are staying tight-lipped about their dance routines, they are more than willing to show off their twinkle toes for the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership on April 26.

Right now, they are getting jazzed up for the competition, which will take place at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston from 5:30 to 9 p.m. and benefit the non-profit organization.

Not only are they practicing two or three times a week, they are also reflecting on the importance of the event, as well as taking time to poke fun at themselves.

“It’s tough being an uptight, middle-aged lawyer learning how to dance,” Warwick resident and attorney John Carroll said last week, as he was rehearsing at Dancin’ Feelin’, a studio located at 272 Pettaconsett Avenue. “But, I’m probably a better dancer than I am a golfer.”

Carroll will be performing with partner Rachael Capodanno, a dance instructor at Dancin’ Feelin’. They said they are both thrilled to be part of the program because they are helping children who are in need of a mentor.

In fact, more than 5,500 children statewide are mentored through the program. According to the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership website at mentorRI.org, children who have mentors are 46 percent less likely to begin using drugs; 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol; 53 percent less likely to skip school; and 33 percent less likely to engage in violence.

“The youth of today need good role models because it’s not always emphasized on television or through sports,” Carroll said. “They need to see real people out there in the community working every day and functioning as good, law abiding citizens. We’re real people the children can look up to.”

Capodanno agreed. When attending a competition in the past, she witnessed a mentor bring the child she was mentoring to the event.

“It was cool to see the results of mentoring,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

Carroll and Capodanno are one of seven competing couples. Another competitor is Dr. Patricia Koch of Koch Eye Associates, who has been paired up with Randy Deats, co-owner of Dancin’ Feelin’.

When Koch first received an e-mail from the Partnership asking if she would be interested in participating in the event as a celebrity dancer, she said she was “scared to death.” However, after thinking about it, she realized she wanted to.

“My brother, Peter, did it a few times and he had the time of his life so I said, ‘This could be a lot of fun,’” said Koch. “I’ve seen my brother and my oldest niece mentor children over the years and I see the difference they’ve made in children’s lives.”

Koch said she likes to dance and also enjoys helping children, so she views the event as a win-win for everyone involved.

“It’s good for the kids and it’s a fun thing to do,” said Koch. “Some steps have been tricky to get a handle on, but I’ve had a wonderful time all the way along. I think we’ve been doing more laughing than dancing.”

Jo-Ann L. Schofield, president and COO of the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership, said that having a good time is one of the main points of the competition. Of course, raising funds to increase the number of children the organization mentors is the other key factor. Last year, the event raised $85,000.

“For me, it’s making a difference in the lives of kids,” said Schofield, who has been with the organization for more than 15 years and has been a mentor on and off through the years. The organization was established in 1990. “When you see a child reconnect with a mentor at the beginning of the school year, it melts your heart. You realize you’re making changes for kids. They realize they can do so much more than they thought they could with the help of their mentor.”

Schofield is particularly looking forward to seeing this year’s opening number, which revolves around a spy theme and will be performed by NBC 10 reporters Mario Hilario and Barbara Morse Silva, along with a troupe of dancers. Kathy St. Jean of Dancin’ Feelin’ is choreographing the number.

“They are hard at work,” Schofield said. “We’re very excited because last year’s opening number was “Thriller,” and they are saying they are going to top that. The amount of time and energy they have put into the number is pretty phenomenal.”

Hilario, who has participated in the event for the last five years as either a competitor, guest dancer or host, will again be hosting alongside Heather Gersten of Lite Rock 105. He concurred with Schofield in the sense that the routine will be more “complex” and “elaborate” than last year.

“I don’t think we can top ‘Thriller’ because it was such a great way to do an opening number, but we came up with a good, high-energy performance this year that’s going to wow the crowd,” he said. “If people have gone to the event before, if they are coming for the first time or if they have heard about the event but have never been, this is the year to come and support a good cause.”

In addition to Carroll and Koch, other celebrity competitors are Ryan Crowley from the Office of the Governor; Colleen Gouveia of Bank of America; Keith A. Lavimodiere of the Washington Trust Company; Jessica Ricci of Jessica Ricci Jewelry; and Karen Warfied of Textron.

Serving as their coaches are instructors from Dancin’ Feelin’. Respectively, they are: Briana Faiola; JimValkoun; Deb O’Donnell; David Endicott; and Josh Morgenstein. Deb Gormley of the Washington Trust Company will be event co-chair.

Three judges will be on hand to decide who the winning couple will be. Judges are Gary Jacobik of Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Worcester; Kate Nagle of RDW Group; and Arnold Bromberg of Benny’s, who danced in last year’s event and won the People’s Choice Award.

As it’s name implies, the People’s Choice Award is fan-based. Every dollar that someone raises counts as a vote. Each of the contestants have fundraising pages online, which can be accessed by visiting the Partnership’s website at mentorri.org, clicking “Events and News,” locating the desired competitor and clicking on his/her name.

“It’s rewarding for the celebrities because they see that they are being supported by their families and friends,” Schofield said.

Guests will also be treated to a dinner of balsamic chicken with rice and a vegetable medley. Dessert is chocolate mousse. Further, a silent auction and raffles will be held.

Schofield, who in January was appointed president of the organization by the board after former president Arlene McNulty decided to step down and work part-time, is looking forward to the event. She said she cannot wait.

“You can feel the excitement when you walk in the room,” she said. “I’m very proud of the fact that we are able to pull an event like this together and have such broad-based support for mentoring. This event has raised the profile for mentoring.”

For reservations or to make a donation, visit mentorRI.org or call 401-732-7700 before April 19.

The event is sponsored by Amgen; Koch Eye Associates; the Washington Trust Company; Amica Mutual Insurance Company; Coastway Community Bank; MetLife; Textron, Inc.; AmWINS; Bank of America; Citizens Bank; Greenwood Credit Union; Hasbro; MetLife Auto & Home; Moses & Afonso, Ltd.; Swarovski; Toray Plastics America; and Bob and Fran Weygand.

The following organizations donated products for raffles or silent auction: Dancin’ Feelin’; NBC10; Lite Rock 105; Cardi’s Furniture; and Hodge Graphics.

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