BY SHERI TRUSTY
When Ryan Clifton’s friend, Kenn Bower, Jr., suggested he volunteer to dance with Dancing with the Stars – Ottawa County Style on Saturday, Nov. 18, he wasn’t interested. Then he learned the event will raise funds for Ottawa County Family Advocacy Center and its many programs that impact hundreds of people each year.
“I told Kenn absolutely not, but then he told me about all they do for the community,” Clifton said.
Clifton was particularly impressed with the GRANDlove program that provides support for grandparents raising children whose parents are absent due to drug use or overdose. Clifton lost a close friend to overdose on Aug. 9, 2020, and her children are now being raised by their grandparents.
Clifton has seen firsthand the challenges that brings.
“Her parents got custody of her kids. I still go visit them,” Clifton said. “The GRANDlove program hits close to home.”
Clifton, who struggled for years with drug addiction, is now a well-respected leader and mentor in the recovery community. He is always looking for ways to support the people and organizations of Ottawa County, so he has slipped on his dance shoes and is training with former dance instructor Elizabeth “Mookie” Hany. At Dancing with the Stars – Ottawa County Style on Saturday, Nov. 18, he’ll be ready to wow the judges with a hip-hop routine.
Clifton will compete against Lakeside Chautauqua Interim President and CEO, Charles Allen; Port Clinton Schools Champion for Children Coordinator, Lisa Chura; Oak Harbor City Administrator, Randy Genzman; Genoa Bank Management Trainee Emily Lenke; and Rose Sabin, owner of Soul Stretch Yoga, Soul Stretch Cycle and Root to Rise Wellness Bar.
The dancers are competing to see who can raise the most money for the Family Advocacy Center. Donations can be made directly to the dancers prior to the event and, on the day of the event, the audience votes using dollars. The judges – Debbie Tester as Carrie Ann, Bert Fall as Bruno and Pat Adkins as Len – score the dancers.
“The dancer with the most money raised wins the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy, and the dancer with the highest scores wins Judges’ Choice. The judges do an amazing job. They really get into it,” said Family Advocacy Center Executive Director, Connie Roe. “They take it pretty seriously. They see how well the dance partners work together and how the audience reacts. They really do look for fun as well as good dancing.”
Retired Ottawa County Judge Kathleen Giesler will serve as master of ceremonies.
“Her expertise in interviewing the dancers is the best,” Roe said.
Dancing with the Stars – Ottawa County Style will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18 at Sunrise Park and Banquet Center at 29208 Millbury Rd. in Millbury. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and dinner begins at 6 p.m. Tickets for Dancing with the Stars cost $55. Tickets can be purchased from any dancer, by calling 419-301-0225, or at the door.
“I say that anyone who walks in with a wallet gets in,” Roe said. “All of the funds raised stay right here in Ottawa County to support families and children.”
That desire to help fund that support is what pulled Clifton onto the dance floor.
“I’m just happy to be here. I’m willing to do anything for the community that helped me get my life back,” he said.