Dancing With Our Stars is more than a cha-cha for charity and a foxtrot to benefit a local nonprofit.
When 11 Tucsonans take to the floor Friday, they’ll be dancing for diapers: Their efforts seek to raise as much as one-third of the annual budget for the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona.
“We are hoping to net $90,000, and the reason this money will go even further is that we have a grant through the National Diaper Bank Network so that we can get diapers for literally pennies. Usually diapers cost 28 cents each and we can get them for three cents each,” said Rachele Peterson, chairwoman of the event and a member of the board of directors for the Diaper Bank.
Peterson said the Diaper Bank stretches every dollar by keeping overhead to a minimum and partnering with more than 55 existing Southern Arizona social service agencies to distribute diapers for babies and incontinence supplies for seniors and disabled adults.
“Our belief is that people who need diapers have lots of other needs, and our goal is to help them access a level of case management for a network of services such as housing, job support, counseling and support with parenting skills so they can get back on their feet and out of poverty. Then they get what they need now and in the long term,” Peterson said.
She also emphasized that the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, which was the nation’s first diaper bank and has served as a model for others across the country, is one of few that provides incontinence products for adults.
Adult supplies, which cost about $100 monthly per person and are not covered by regular Medicare or other supplemental insurance plans, comprise about 25 percent of the Diaper Bank’s annual inventory.
“A diaper is so much more than ‘just a diaper.’ It is independence for so many older people. It is a critical element of health as well, and it is the same with children,” she said. “And studies show that mothers who don’t have enough diapers for their children are at risk for anxiety and depression, so diapers help with mental and physical health.”
Understanding the effect that diapers can have on individual lives compelled Jenny Carrillo to strap on dancing shoes for the upcoming fundraiser.
“I think everybody who has a child can relate to how expensive diapers are and what it might be like if you had to choose between feeding your child and putting a clean diaper on your child if you were in a difficult financial situation,” said Carrillo, a mother of two and partner in Alexander/Carrillo Consulting. The local business provides organizational development and fundraising for nonprofit groups.
Carrillo admitted that the opportunity to learn ballroom dancing has fulfilled a lifetime desire and allowed her to check an item off of her bucket list.
“I love the theatrics of it. It is more than just putting steps to music; it is about taking on a character,” Carillo said.
She credits her teacher, John Caballero, with helping bring the “characters” to life by dancing the foxtrot to “I Love Paris.”
“I give him huge props for his patience and sense of humor through this whole process with me … I am even letting him lead, and that is a big step,” she said.
Another “star,” Pat Miller, who is director of golf at Omni Tucson National, will put down his clubs and take the lead in the cha-cha with his partner, Lannie Sullivan.
“I like the cha-cha because it is fast. I consider myself to have an upbeat personality and I like songs with an upbeat tempo, so the waltz would have been difficult for me,” Miller said.
As a high-level athlete, Miller has been surprised by the athleticism required for the practices and the attention to detail needed for the upcoming performance.
“You are in multiple positions all the time and it all changes on a dime … just gaining my balance when I started was a huge thing. But my legs are in great shape right now because of all of the dancing on my toes,” he said.
The dancing has also brought out his competitiveness.
“Both my instructor and I are highly competitive people, so we push each other a little bit. A few times she has told me, ‘I have this really cool move but I don’t think you can do it,’ and I say, ‘Put it in!’ Our practices are fun, but definitely intense, and I can only imagine what the others are doing,” he said.
Carrillo and Miller believe that a healthy rivalry between the contestants for the top award — the Desert Diamond Casino and Entertainment People’s Choice Award known as the Mirror Ball Trophy, based on the Judge’s Award, the Audience Award and the Top Fundraiser — will make the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona the ultimate winner.
“It is really fun to be raising money for such a worthy local nonprofit, and that is where my competitive side is stepping up. I want to win the Mirror Ball by buying as many votes as possible. So remind people to go online and vote, particularly for me,” Carrillo said.