TRAVERSE CITY – Jen Klabunde has practiced veterinary medicine for years. Now, she'll have to strap on some dancing shoes and begin practicing something a little different.
Thursday night, Klabunde was named one of the "stars" who will compete in the upcoming SwingShift and the Stars Dance-Off for Charity.
Klabunde, owner of Northwood Animal Hospital in Grawn, is one of the six area celebrities who will team up with a professional dancer or instructor in the 2013 competition. The fundraiser will benefit six charities.
Organizers announced the names of the stars, their professional dance instructors and charities for the popular moneymaker at a kickoff Thursday at Milliken Auditorium in the Dennos Museum Center.
Klabunde will pair up with instructor Danny Brizard for No Unwanted Pets, a Grand Traverse area spray-neuter coalition.
“I’m excited because it’s an honor to be chosen and it will bring attention to the coalition," Klabunde said. Three area animal welfare organizations, AC Paw, HANDDS to the Rescue and Un-Cats created the coalition to submit one application.
Modeled after the popular “Dancing with the Stars," the dance-off has raised more than $687,000 for 30 local charities since 2008 when Judy Harrison founded it to "put the fun back into fundraising."
Harrison is lead singer of the Swingshift and the Stars, her 10-piece swing band that plays for dance performances.
Other contestants, dance professionals and charities featured in the event’s sixth season are: Rick Summer and instructor Jen Howard, Father Fred Foundation; Tammy Ensman and instructor Rodney Woodring, Grand Traverse Dyslexia Association; Lars Kelto and instructor Lauren Harris, Great Lakes Children’s Museum; Dan Brady and instructor Maria West for Habitat for Humanity; and Juliette Schultz and instructor Shanoski, Peace Ranch.
John Noonan, executive director of the Great Lakes Children’s Museum along West-Bay Shore Drive, was pleased that the nonprofit was selected. It will boost public exposure and yearly fundraising for the kids museum, he said. About 40 percent of the museum’s funding comes from donations and philanthropy.
“It also gives us a way to reward donors with a unique event,” he said. "It will be fun to be there with six different charities rooting for their dancers.”
The fundraising goal this year is $400,000, event coordinator Melissa Coolman said. If reached, it will put the amount raised since 2008 over the $1 million mark.
The teams will dance in competitions at the City Opera House on Sept. 20, Oct. 18, Nov. 15 and the Dec. 20 finale. General admission is $20 or $25 for VIP reserved seats. Charities and stars can buy unlimited numbers of both. Everyone who attends the event, except stars and dance professionals, must have a ticket.
For a minimum $5 donation, audience members can vote for their favorite dance couple in the four competitions. Proceeds benefit the charities. Audience votes will be combined with judges' scores from all four competitions.
For more information, please go to the Swingshift website: www.swingshiftandthestars.com/