Shall we dance?

Appleton event to raise money for Sexual Assault Crisis Center

by Tim Froberg

“Dancing with the Stars” has been a ratings hit since its television debut in 2005.

The Fox Cities has its own version of ABC’s popular reality series and the coronavirus pandemic won’t prevent local dancers from cutting a rug for a good cause.

Shall We Dance, a major fundraiser for the Sexual Assault Crisis Center-Fox Cities, will stage its 13th annual show October 3 at the Red Lion Hotel in downtown Appleton.

The program starts at 7 p.m. and pairs eight local celebrities with professional dancers. An online auction, seated dinner, professional dance showcases, and open dance floor at the end of the evening are part of the festivities.

Shall We Dance has raised $2.4 million since its debut in 2008 for Sexual Assault Crisis Center-Fox Cities, which offers free counseling, crisis hotline, support groups, sexual assault prevention programs, and medical and legal advocacy for community members in need. It provides 24-hour access to advocates trained to support and assist victims of sexual abuse or assault.

While the pandemic has led to the cancellation of countless local events this year, Shall We Dance’s cause is so important that organizers are determined to clear all hurdles to pull it off.

“It’s a must-go,” said Executive Director Amy Flanders. “It’s our largest fundraiser – about 34% of our annual budget. There have been challenges but we’ve said all along that this event can still happen. It’s just going to look a little different.”

Among the differences will be a sit-down, plated dinner instead of buffet-style dining. In addition, an online auction, which will start days prior to event, will replace the live silent auction. Both changes are being implemented to eliminate lines and promote social distancing. For updated information on the online auction, visit

Masks aren’t mandatory but will be available – with the words “Shall we Dance” inscribed on them. Hotel staff workers will wear masks and gloves and follow all precautions outlined by the CDC.

“It’s an event that people want to be part of,” said Flanders. “What’s really kept us going all these years has been the community dancers. Every year it’s a new group of people who are really opening up awareness for what we do.”

The community dancer who raises the most money online prior to the event will receive a community engagement award. A people’s choice award will be presented to the dancer who raises the most funds on the night of the event. The winner of the dance competition, decided by three judges, will land the coveted mirror ball trophy.

Community dancers are announced in April and train for several months with local professional dancers.

“Not that many people actually dance, so our community dancers are people who put themselves outside their comfort zones to raise money and awareness for our organization,” Flanders said.

This year’s community dancers are:

  • Michael Babbitts, Performa Inc.
  • Cristi Burrill, U.S. Venture Inc.
  • Monica Hilt, Ascension Wisconsin
  • Michelle Forsythe, independent healthcare coach
  • Stacia Gratke, Old National Bank
  • Mary Winkel, Coldwell Banker
  • Lisa Van Wyk, Blaze Sports & Fitness
  • Todd “Mitch” Mitchell, bellaRuth studio

Tickets for tables of 10 are still available, but purchases should be made soon since the event usually sells out. The cost is $1,200 per table and can be purchased by calling the Sexual Assault Crisis Center at 920-733-8119.