Dancers stepping up to raise funds for MentorRI

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The stage is set for Mentor Rhode Island’s 14th Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring event. Ten community members will dance with a partner from The Dancing Feeling to raise as much money as they can for the non-profit.

For the next few weeks, contestants will learn their individual dances before coming to perform on April 9 at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston. Inside the venue, $1 gets one vote toward a dancer. And the duo with the most votes wins the People’s Choice Award that comes with a trophy.

One of those contestants is Matthew Raiche, vice president and branch manager for Washington Trust. He said that this event is a way for him to give back to the community. From a family of educators, mentoring has always been a part of his life. Raiche said that he was asked to participate and was backed by his family the whole way.

“I’m very thankful for my family,” Raiche said. “What kind of father would I be if I backed out?”

He and his partner Rachael Mooney started rehearsing their dance about a month ago and will continue to meet once a week. Raiche said that he didn’t want to give away too much information so he can keep the dance a surprise until April. His goals are to have the largest supporting community show up for the event and also to raise the most money for the organization that puts it on.

Also competing this year are Andy Brown of Starbucks, Chris Conforti of Ocean State Job Lot, Ken Delmastro of Bank of America, Deb George of Robinson & Cole, Pat Mastors former Local TV News Anchor, Bianca Matarese of Textron, Jessica Morse of Amgen, Adam Ramsey of Advanced Production & Design and Holly Tomlinson of Amica.

Mentor Rhode Island president and CEO Jo-Ann Schofield is the coordinator for their biggest event of the year. The organization oversees mentoring programs in various cities around the state. The program aims to provide relationships to help struggling youth find someone to help them as they grow. 

Between ticket sales, silent auctions, sponsorships and the $1 per vote for a crowd of 500 to 600, Mentor Rhode Island netted $126,000 from this event alone last year. In 2018, Warwick School Committee eliminated Mentor RI from the budget before restoring some of the cuts since then. Tickets are $90.

“Our goal is to make sure that there are all high-quality programs and that the 900 kids on waiting lists can get matched with mentors,” Schofield said.

The money raised will be used to help operate the organization along with the school-based programs Mentor RI oversees, according to Schofield. Their work reaches Warwick, Cranston, Newport, Woonsocket, Providence, Warren and Pawtucket. Schofield said her organization serves about 280 kids who use time in school during school hours to meet with youth in need of mentoring. Through teachers or administrators at school or family members at home, recommendations are sent in to Mentor RI to ask them to pair an adult with a child in need. But one issue is that there aren’t as many willing adults as there are kids in need. 

“If anybody ever doubted that an hour a week could make a difference, I would invite them to either come and see one of the mentor programs or even volunteer themselves,” Schofield said.

The organization doesn’t just take a mentor and pair them with the next child in like to be mentored. They take similar interests between the two and try to make a match. Some of these relationships begin around elementary school, but some have continued past high school graduation and into adulthood.

Schofield said that there is no cost for either the child or mentor to participate in the program – just a minimum of one hour every week that works for both parties.

“For some of our young people, that hour a week is the one consistent thing in their lives that they have to look forward to,” Schofield said. “It not only makes a difference for the kid, but it really makes a difference for the mentor.”

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