Two UT students will take their Volunteer spirit to the dance floor this week when they participate in the Dancing with the Knoxville Stars competition to raise money for East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.
The event will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 12, in the Grande Event Center at the Knoxville Expo Center.
Sponsored by Star 102.1, Dancing with the Knoxville Stars is a takeoff of the hit reality television show Dancing with the Stars. The event features Knoxville celebrities performing a variety of dances with a professional dance partner from Dance Tonight, a local dance studio. The winner of the competition is determined by judges’ votes and online voting for each celebrity dancer.
UT students Al Henriquez and his wife, Rachel, will compete in the event as professional dancers. Al, a UT Facilities Services supervisor and third-year student studying hotel, restaurant, and tourism, will dance with Jewelry Television host and UT alumna Mandy Bradshaw. Rachel, a senior in English who will soon begin her master’s degree in education, will dance with musician Morgan Wallen, a local resident who competed on popular TV talent show The Voice.
Other celebrities participating in the event include news anchors, reporters, radio DJs, sports legends, designers, and more.
“The children’s hospital is constantly trying to get people the community recognizes,” Rachel Henriquez said. “They are all celebrities that are really visible to the community. That’s why it’s so fun to work with these people because they have great personalities.”
“The goal is to always beat the previous year’s record,” Bradshaw said.
Dancing with the Knoxville Stars began in 2009 and has brought in more money each year. Last year, it raised around $127,000—pushing its six-year fundraising total to more than $322,000.
Money raised through donations and ticket sales will be earmarked for East Tennessee Children’s Hospital’s Home Health Care program, which provides follow-up care to children who do not need to be in the hospital or under constant watch by health care professionals. This year, the money will be used for respiratory equipment that children need for in-home care.
Being part of Dancing with the Knoxville Stars is a commitment—requiring the dancers to spend much of their free time preparing for the event. But the dancers say they enjoy being a part of a worthy cause.
“I’ve got three girls and all three of them, at one point or another, have been treated at Children’s Hospital,” Bradshaw said. “I want to be able to give back to them for being so amazing to not just my kids, but to everyone’s children. They really are fantastic. Even though I can’t dance all that great, I just want to be able to give back and do what I can.”
“To dance for East Tennesse’s Children’s Hospital is a remarkable honor,” Al Henriquez said. “To walk through that hospital and see nothing but happy, joyful, and hopeful adults and children makes anyone want to do anything that they can do to contribute.”
One dollar equals one vote. To purchase a ticket or to vote for a celebrity dancer, visit the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital website.
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)