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Dancing for the day care


 
Dancing With the Stars Team Di
Team Dancing Di, consisting of Diana Kiser ('18M), associate director of strategic gifts at JMU, and USA Dance member Greg Riddle, was one of seven teams to participate in the 2021 Dancing With the Stars of the 'Burg event.

SUMMARY: Dancing With the Stars of the ‘Burg, an annual ballroom dancing competition hosted by JMU, supports the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Child Day Care Center as it looks to serve more families.


By Emma Loscalzo

When it comes to raising a family, it can take a village. Without support from the community, finding quality, affordable child care can be daunting.

Diana Kiser (’18M) understands this challenge.
 
“I needed to have day care because I was a single mom, and for me, it was always a challenge,” said Kiser, associate director of strategic gifts at JMU. “You really want to know they’re being well cared for, and there’s a lot of disparity in people’s ability to have good day care.”

This past weekend, Kiser was among the local “celebrities” who participated in Dancing With the Stars of the ‘Burg, an annual fundraiser benefiting the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Child Day Care Center.

Aside from the occasional wedding and a few classes, Kiser had not had much opportunity to dance since her days on her high school’s drill team. Although she was excited to put on her dancing shoes again, Kiser said that being a contestant was about more than the chance to win the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy. She was motivated by the meaning behind the moves she learned alongside her dance partner, Greg Riddle.
 
A longtime resident of nearby Bridgewater, Virginia, Riddle has seen how the needs of families and the availability of child care in the Shenandoah Valley have changed over the last several decades.
 
“I grew up in the valley and both my parents did as well, so we had family members to pick from [who] we trusted,” Riddle said. “That’s not exactly how it is anymore. People move around, and you don’t have family close by. You need an organization that you can count on like the [HRCDCC].”
 
As a member of USA Dance, Riddle has been a part of Dancing With the Stars of the ‘Burg since it began in 2010. The ballroom-dancing event consists of seven teams, each comprised of a local “celebrity” paired with a member of the Shenandoah Valley chapter of USA Dance, who compete to raise money for HRCDCC, while also getting a shot at various awards given by the judges.

Dancing With the Stars group
Kiser and Riddle accept the Judge's Choice Award for their waltz. 

Dancing With the Stars of the ‘Burg was created to support the growing financial needs of HRCDCC, as it looks to serve more families. Over the past 11 years, the event has raised more than $500,000 for HRCDCC’s building fund, giving the center the ability to purchase its own building downtown and begin renovations. The space will give the center more financial autonomy and room to grow.

“To be able to use something we really enjoy and something we are really excited about as a vehicle to make that impact is just an amazing opportunity,” said the event’s co-founder and emcee, David Taylor (’85). “It’s an amazing number of people and businesses who have been a part of the success of the fundraiser.”

More than 100 contestants have competed in the event, and JMU has had a “star” participate every year, dating back to the late Ronald E. Carrier’s appearance in 2010. In addition to Kiser, JMU alumni Rebecca Holloway (’18M), Libbi Fitzgerald (’97) and Nick Gardner (’16), as well as professor of dance Suzanne Miller-Corso participated in the 2021 event.

“We adapt and change to the world around us,” executive director Delores Jameson said. “The more we learn about children and their needs, we continue to adapt our program to meet the needs of those children.” Since it was founded 50 years ago, HRCDCC has been providing a village to families in the valley. As child care has changed, HRCDCC has continued evolving to help those it serves.

Dancing With the Stars winners
Team Swecker, led by Nick Gardner ('16), took home the Mirror Ball trophy.

Jameson said one goal for the day care is to expand into infant care. “With the new building, that is the plan, to be able to eventually open up an infant and toddler classroom so we can serve the community in that way,” she said.

The day care's sliding-scale tuition allows families of all incomes to receive high-quality, reasonably priced child care. “It’s not just for high-income families or low-income families,” Jameson said. “We offer diversity on a first-come, first-serve basis. We do all that so we can make it affordable.”

Thanks to Dancing With the Stars of the ‘Burg, HRCDCC has been able to do just that. This year’s event netted $159,052 for HRCDCC, with Team Dancing Di contributing $24,276.

Team Swecker, led by Gardner, took home the Mirrorball trophy, was the People’s Choice winner and fundraised a staggering $43,603 for HRCDCC. Before the sold-out crowd in the Festival ballroom, Team Dancing Di earned perfect “10s” for their waltz and was named the Judges Choice winner for their performance. Although they did not take home the Mirror Ball trophy, for Team Dancing Di, there was no better prize than the opportunity to help support the children of the valley.

“Everything else is a means to an end,” Kiser said. “The day care is a beautiful example of how we can all come together and create a solution that helps so many families.”

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Published: Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Last Updated: Monday, November 29, 2021

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