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Local stars dance the night away
Third annual Dancing with the Turlock Stars raises $154,000 for local charities
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Sue Micheletti lifts the 2016 Mirror Ball in victory after raising nearly $29,000 for local charities along with her partner, Skyler Bazal.



Some of Turlock’s best hit the stage Saturday night, sashaying the night away as part of the third annual Dancing with the Turlock Stars event.

In July, DWTTS paired dancing professionals together with local business, government, education and nonprofit leaders, giving the couples 10 weeks to create dance routines for the big event. This year’s cast included representatives of Turlock’s police and fire departments, a gym owner, a school board trustee and the “Turlock Cake Boss,” among other respected Turlockers.

The dancing competition fundraiser, modeled after primetime television’s “Dancing with the Stars,” raised money for local nonprofits Jessica’s House, Salvation Army and Covenant Care Hospice.

“All of the money raised stays right here, so Turlockers really get behind the fact that money is being used here in the community,” said DWTTS Board President Kristin Bettencourt. “Everyone has been touched somehow by these three causes, and it’s a fun, feel-good event.”

The competition provided the couples with two opportunities to win a trophy – either by receiving the most votes (which cost $10) or by scoring the highest for their routine by the judges’ panel, comprised of Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Dana Trevethan, dance coach Simon Anowia and trained dancer Kerry Rocha.

Sue Micheletti, chief executive officer of Emanuel Medical Center, went into the competition hoping for good news.

“If we win the Mirror Ball, that means we raised the most money for the organizations that benefit from this event and that would make me very proud,” she said. “I’m certainly a big supporter of all the organizations and it’s really about the fundraising, so if I fall out there and hurt myself I’m going to be proud that we participated and we raised money for three great causes.”

Micheletti’s hard work paid off as she, along with partner Skyler Bazal, were able to raise just over $28,700 for the nonprofit beneficiaries, taking home the 2016 Mirror Ball at the end of the night.

For dancing star Kyle Kaepernick, participating in an event that would benefit Covenant Care Hospice was important to him, as he recently lost his father-in-law to cancer. As a Turlock resident who is also involved with Jessica’s House, being a part of DWTTS was a special experience.

“I cannot take myself too seriously, and definitely wanted to do something good for the community,” said Kaepernick.

While each couple danced their heart out on stage included a 50s-themed dance from school board trustee Bob Weaver and his partner Amy Shamgochian, an homage to Prince from Turlock Adult School principal Isaias Rumayor and his partner Stephanie Valgos, and a sensual salsa dance from police officer Mayra Lewis and her partner Hector Gonzalez. But there could only be one winner of the 2016 Judge’s Trophy. Actually make that two. A tie among the top scorers doubled the number of winners.

Joseph Estacio and his partner Amber Traini wowed the crowd and judges with their 1920s-inspired dance. Estacio told the crowd that he had danced for his father, who passed away seven years ago.

“The dancing was perfection and you looked like you were having a blast,” said Rocha as she held up a score of “10” for the couple. Trevethan and Anowia followed suit, giving Estacio and Traini a perfect “30.”

The impressive routine wasn’t the only dance number to earn a perfect score. Sargon Eddy and Nicole Couto were met with thunderous applause at the conclusion of their performance — a dance that started out slowly to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” but picked up the pace to “Footloose” as time went on. Eddy, who overcame a knee injury to perform Saturday, lost 43 pounds during his DWTTS training.

Trevethan was “speechless” after the dance, calling it “special” as she gave the couple their first of three 10s, tying them with Estacio and Traini for the top judge’s score.

Other awards handed out included the Style Icon Award (Rumayor and Valgos), Outstanding Choreography (Rick Fetter and Danielle Robinette), Excellent Showmanship (Kevin Crivelli and Liz Hallack) and the Fred and Ginger Award, given to the couple with the smoothest routine (Stacey Tonarelli and Xavier Huerta).

By the end of the night, the winners were presented with their trophies and the successful event managed to raise $154,000 for the three local charities.

“I am speechless,” said Bettencourt, who had hoped for the event to raise $150,000. “I am so proud of our board, our cast and of every single person. It truly is a team effort and I’m just in awe of our community.”