MUSKEGON — Residents of the greater Muskegon area are lacing up their shoes and brushing up on their dance moves.


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Forty-two “stars” will join 11 “professional” dancers for the 12th annual Dancing with the Local Stars at the end of February.

The Women’s Division Chamber of Commerce’s event supports food pantries and programs in upper Ottawa and Muskegon counties and lower Oceana County. More than $1 million has been raised for the pantries since the event started.

The shows will take place at Delta Hotels by Marriott in downtown Muskegon at 7 p.m. Feb. 27-29, with a 1 p.m. matinee Feb. 29.

Event co-chairwoman Mary Kendall says the event is one that people can count on to “make an impact in a fun and engaging way.”

“Our mission through Dancing with the Local Stars is to give back to our community,” she said in a press release.

“We help stock the many empty food pantries after the holidays when they’re at their leanest. No one in our community should ever go to bed hungry.”

In addition to learning dances, cast members aim to raise money by distributing boxes around the community to raise funds, which will be counted toward their favorite food program and pantry charity.

Fruitport Community Schools Superintendent Bob Szymoniak is among the “stars” participating in this year’s movie-theme show. His friends who previously participated in the program encouraged him to get involved.

Although Szymoniak doesn’t have dance experience, he said he has rhythm, which he considers a plus.

“This will be a great way to get some exercise, make new friends, and ultimately help our community help those in need through support of local food pantries,” he said. “Beyond dancing, I hope to raise funds and would welcome any and all donations from the community.”

After years of dancing for fun, Melanie Swiftney had an interest in getting involved with Dancing with the Local Stars. The director of marketing and communications for the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation is among the “stars” for the 2020 performances.

When Swiftney lived in Chicago during the 2000s, she went salsa dancing at least once a week for four years.

Swiftney started out wanting to learn the basics, she said, and dancing soon became her “thing.” In addition to getting exercise, Swiftney said dancing is also an opportunity to meet a diverse group of people. In joining this year’s cast, Swiftney said she’s looking forward to meeting people beyond the Tri-Cities area and raising money for food pantries.

Rehearsals are underway for “stars” and “pros.”

“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to put on an event like this, and these teams are ready to put the time in, once again, to help us feed the hungry in our communities,” event co-chairwoman Marilyn Forton said in a press release. “This is what truly makes them stars.”

Tickets are $45 for evening performances and $35 for the matinee. Tickets go on sale Jan. 2 and can be purchased by calling 231-798-4244.

This year’s Grand Haven-area stars also includes Angie Lindeman, a registered nurse and case manager at Review Works.

The full list of “stars” includes:

Trisha Allen, a pharmacist at Mercy Health Pharmacy

Dr. Tabatha Barber, Functional Medicine for Women at PrivaMD Physicians

Kim Bassett, lead meeting planner at Amway Corporation

Christy Belanger, a fifth-grade teacher at Ross Park Elementary School

Erin Blais, owner and operator of Lakeshore Academy of the Arts/Blais Dance Academy

Lisa Bluhm, Women’s Christian Health & Life Breakthrough Coach & Fitness Instructor

Jill Bonthuis, executive director of Pioneer Resources

Billie Carey, a registered nurse at Mercy Health and zumba fitness instructor

Lindsey Cousineau, regional director at CarNow

Kristi Eigenauer, a third-grade teacher at Ross Park Elementary School

Kelly Ellis, a fifth-grade teacher at Ross Park Elementary School

Kari Fuller, director of the Coopersville Area Community Foundation

Matt Gongalski, co-owner of Rad Dads’ Taco & Tequila Bar

Kim Gaver, a Young Fives teacher at Ross Park Elementary School

Staci Geiger, a financial advisor at Raymond James & Associates, Downtown Muskegon

Meghan Heritage, owner of BlueWest Properties

Nicole Jimenez-Smith, cardiovascular technician, Mercy Health, and a Muskegon Charter Township fire fighter

Nate Johnson, reentry and outreach director for Fresh Coast Alliance

Addy Kinziger, registered dietitian, pastry chef, college instructor, owner, NOVA Super.Natural.Bakery

Erin Kuhn, executive director of West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission

Tom Langton, a physician’s assistant at Spectrum Health Geriatrics in Byron Center

Dave Lehner, branch co-manager and loan officer at Michigan Mortgage

Courtney Leibrandt, owner of Vintage Redefined

Angie Linderman, registered nurse and case manager at Review Works

Kendra Martin-Terrell, agent, Durga Insurance Group, Farm Bureau Insurance

Brian McKeown, owner and operator of The UPS Store

Jill McMahon, a fourth-grade teacher at Ross Park Elementary School

Jim Mines, owner and agent at Anchor Group Insurance

Heidi Naperala, founder and CEO of PrivaMD

Ogema Larry Romanelli, Ogema of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians

Jonathan Seyferth, Coopersville City Manager

Dawn Shank, medical social work at Hospice of Michigan

Nancy Susterich, a second-grade teacher at Ross Park Elementary

Melanie Swiftney, director of marketing and communications for the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, and author

Tammy Sylvester, a fifth-grade teacher at Ross Park Elementary

Dr. Andrew Szatkowski, chiropractor at Fruitport Chiropractic

Bob Szymoniak, Superintendent of Fruitport Community Schools

Mark Taylor, president of Taylor Office Furniture

Lisa Tyler, communications director at Senior Resources

Mickey Wallace, executive director of Kemetic Kings Mentoring

Patti Winsemius, dance instructor at Cassell Training Center

Sue Young, a retired third-grade teacher/substitute at Ross Park Elementary

Dancing “professionals” include:

Matt Bradfield, a senior test engineer at Hilite International, one-year participant

Francine Calandro, fitness specialist and personal trainer at AgeWell Services at Tanglewood Park, 12-year participant

Lisa Jirikovic, physical therapist, 12-year participant

Patrick Johnson, PT Arts, LLC Consulting Co-Owner & West Michigan Flight Academy President & CEO & Retired Dance Faculty Instructor Grand Rapids Community College, 12-year participant

Chris Kuhn, co-owner and president of Seal-Tec, two-year participant

Scott Mehlberg, an applications engineer at Burke E. Porter Machine Company, one-year participant

Sandy Nolan, owner and independent contractor of Sandy Nolan Kitchen & Bath Design, two-year participant

Hon. Brenda E. Sprader, Muskegon County Probate Judge and professional dancer and instructor, 12-year participant

Carly Switzer, diagnostic medical sonographer at Spectrum Health Butterworth and Blodgett Hospitals, seven-year participant

Mary Switzer, THE GYM owner and trainer, 11-year participant

Andrea VanBeek, RN case manager/preceptor at Mary Free Bed at Home, five-year participant

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