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Turlock dancing competition swings into third season
Jessica's House joins Salvation Army, Covenant Care Hospice as beneficiaries
The 2016 cast of Dancing With the Turlock Stars pose for a picture during the fundraising event's launch party on Thursday. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

2016 Pros                                                          2016 Stars

Fabion DeLeon                                               Patti Soiseth

Xavier Huerta                                                Stacey Tonarelli

Skyler Bazal                                                    Sue Micheletti

Hector Gonzalez                                            Mayra Lewis

Amy Shamgochian                                        Bob Weaver

Mackenzie Shamgochian                             Duraye Roque

Amber Traini                                                  Joseph Estacio

Gabrielle Aguiar-Forrest                               Cameron Kaiser

Stephanie Valgos                                          Isaias Rumayor

Annette Langley                                            Kyle Kaepernick

Liz Hallack                                                      Kevin Crivelli

Danielle Robinette                                        Rick Fetter

Nicole Couto                                                  Sargon Eddy



A hospital CEO, school board trustee and representatives of Turlock's police and fire departments will soon trip the light fantastic while trying to raise money for local nonprofits as part of the 2016 Dancing With the Turlock Stars event.

The dancing competition fundraiser launched its third season on Thursday by announcing the next group of dancing pros and stars — and a new nonprofit beneficiary.

Modeled after the popular television show with a similar name, DWTTS couples dancing professionals together with local business, government, education and nonprofit leaders to create dance routines that are then performed during a dinner event in September. Couples have two ways of winning a DWTTS trophy — by garnering the most votes (which cost $10 each) or by scoring the highest for their routine by a panel of judges.

The 13 pro and star couples met for the first time on Thursday and now have 10 weeks to put together a winning performance.

Like many of the stars chosen to dance in the event, Turlock Unified School Board Trustee Bob Weaver said the only dancing he's done prior to this fundraiser was at weddings and parties.

"I'm excited to be a part of this event," said Weaver, despite his lack of experience.

Stacey Tonarelli, executive assistant to the mayor and city manager, said while she was "hoodwinked" into participating in the dancing contest by the mayor and other city staff, she is in it to win it. Tonarelli said song choice would be the key to her taking the DWTTS title this year.

Dancing stars Officer Mayra Lewis, representing the Turlock Police Department, and Turlock Firefighter Cameron Kaiser already have a friendly competition going as each said the other was "going down," when it comes to taking home a dancing trophy.

"I've never danced in my life, but at the same time when you try something new you just have to throw yourself into practice," said Kaiser.

No matter who comes home with a trophy, local nonprofits will be the winners.

Jessica's House, a grief support program for children, teens, young adults and their families, will join the Turlock Salvation Army Corp and Covenant Care Hospice as beneficiaries of the Dancing With the Turlock Stars event.

"We are so excited to be a part of this event," said Jessica's House founding executive director Erin Nelson. "It's really an answer to a prayer for us. We've added 100 children over the past year and we now serve 250 children, teens and young adults. This couldn't have come at a better time."

More than 1,000 people attended the inaugural event in 2014 to watch their friends and family take to the stage, raising $34,000 for the Salvation Army. In 2015, Dancing With the Turlock Stars became its own nonprofit entity and added Covenant Care Hospice as a beneficiary. Last year the event sold out in under an hour and almost tripled the amount of money raised to $104,000.

This year, event organizers are hoping to host a live streaming viewing party at a restaurant in town to allow even more people to take part in the fun, while also helping the community.

"Every day at the Salvation Army on Lander Avenue, we have 25 to 30 kids in after-school programs, we also have kids playing in the gym and in the tutoring program. All funds from this event help us to provide these services," said Salvation Army Board President Jerry Powell, who won the Mirror Ball Championship in 2014 for generating the most donations through votes cast.

"I'm proud that we're a part of this event and I'm excited to see this year's cast perform."

For more information on the DWTTS event, visit