HOLTVILLE — The Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program (IVROP) Community Foundation’s fundraising gala featured seven returning stars to compete in the tenth year of the “Dancing with the Stars” gala Friday evening at Imperial Palms Resort at the Barbara Worth golf course in Holtville. Tickets were sold out in March and Imperial Valley VIPs filled the room to watch.
Prior to the start of the dance competition, master of ceremonies John Moreno introduced the seven returning stars and their dance instructors — who also served as their dance partners. Three screens flashed video snippets for the audience to see a glimpse of the competitors’ rehearsals and interview sessions.
The dance pairs for the evening were Jason Jackson and his dance partner, Marina Thornburg; Dr. Alvaro Camacho and Mary Esquer; Dalia Rodriguez and Derek Gonzales Torres; Dr. Betsy Lindbergh and Dr. Karson Kupiec; Robert Rubio and Julia Contreras; Katy Alcantra-Santillan and Alfonso Villalobos; and Terri Rogers and Hector Léon.
The competition’s judges, seated behind a desk in front of the dance floor, were Ryan Childers, Lisa Winkler, technical judge Jessica Brooks and bidding judge Denise Harrison.
The team of Dalia Rodriguez and Derek Gonzales Torres took the largest star with a top prize trophy and recognition as the local 2017 Dancing with the Stars champions.
Rodriguez remarked about the competition, “It was fabulous. You know, it’s fun to be able to compete and do your very best. It’s for a great cause, so we’re just so happy we could do what we planned. I’m just happy to have Derek as my partner, because we work well together.”
Rodriguez said she and Gonzales had been practicing diligently since February. “He has a really good attitude and I think, because we’re both competitors and trainers, we know how it is to work hard to get that goal.”
First runner up was Terri Rogers and her dance instructor and partner, Hector Léon. In addition to Léon, other dancers lifted her above their shoulders and correspondingly received resounding applause and cheers from the audience.
“It was a lot of fun,” Rogers said. “Everybody’s a winner here. We’re here to make money for the IVROP, for the students of Imperial Valley. And that feels good.”
According to Rogers, the only thing that was changed this year was that her husband, Les Rogers, was very hands on during her training. “He was my biggest critic and my biggest support person,” she said. Her family and friends attended and waved props with tiny lights as Rogers and Léon danced on the floor.
Even though he was still recuperating from an injury, Jason Jackson and his dance instructor, Marina Thornburg, managed to garner second runner up in the dance competition. The injury prompted severals days of break and a modification of their dance moves, they said.
“I had an injury about a month ago,” Jackson explained. “I had two broken ribs. And so it really stopped us from practicing for about three weeks. We did it for the kids and for the scholarships. Everybody that performed won today. And more importantly, the kids win, because we raised a lot of money tonight. And that’s going to high school scholarships.”
Katy Alcantra-Santillan received the People’s Choice award. She said, “The People’s Choice award means if someone feels that you are deserving and you should get their support, they put a dollar in,” Alcantra-Santillan said. “A dollar is one vote. And I did get up over $10,000 worth.”
Even with little time to practice, Alcantra-Santillan and her instructor did their best. “My instructor, Carlos Valenzuela, did a good job within the last seven days. That’s how much practice we had. It feels good. All that hard work pays off,” she said.
Alcantra-Santillan said she has high hopes for the scholarship recipients. “All these kids that are going to get the scholarships, hopefully, they will in turn give to somebody else after they’ve received here. They are our future, and that’s what we look for,” she said.
Terri Rogers is president of IVROP Community Foundation Board. She said all 640 tickets were sold out. And that is $85 ticket per person. The total funds raised from ticket sales, the bidding judge, and People’s Choice award from the event were not available at press time.