TAMPA - Two and half months ago, I received a call from Julie Weintraub, the founder of Hands Across the Bay. It's a local charity committed to giving back to the community.
She asked me to participate in her signature fundraiser, "Hands Across the Bay Dancing with the Stars".
It is truly one of the biggest and most talked about events in the Bay area.
I was so flattered and humbled, but I had been asked numerous times to participate, and I politely declined. I have two left feet!
I am so uncoordinated and I know many may have a hard time believing this, but very very shy in front of live audiences.
On television, it's just me and my photographers or the studio crew, who I consider to be a part of my extended family.
I remember saying to Julie, "You are so sweet to consider me, but you know I can't do that!"
ABC Action News is a sponsor of this event. Julie replied and said, "Your General Manager Rich Pegram thinks you would be a good representative this year."
What could I say now?
Our general manager always is very adamant that we are a team, and that we are!
But since Rich started 5 years ago, our station has steadily climbed to number one in the market.
He has made a difference by making our station a huge part of this community, especially with our annual Domestic Violence Campaign, which since it began, has literally saved lives.
Two of the charities benefiting from Hands Across the Bay, DWTS event, are the domestic violence programs, "The Spring" and "Casa."
I tell you all of this, because this is what turned my "no" into a "yes".
So I took a deep breath, tried to swallow my fear and jumped into what really was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life---barring having a baby!
I took my lessons at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in North Tampa and had such a great instructor. Chris Carr was so patient with me.
But after the first few lessons, most in the evening, I would literally go home in tears.
By the time I left the studio at night, my family was asleep! I would talk to my colleague Jamison Uhler, who has emceed the event for the past four years.
I would lament that I was never going to learn the routine and I just was not coordinated enough!
He would tell me to be patient that I would learn it. He always had faith I could master it, and that helped me have faith in myself.
I also turned to my mentor, Linda Hurtado, who no matter what my dilemma is, gives me perspective.
Linda has also emceed the "Dancing with the Stars" event for four years with Jamison.
Linda told me to have fun. She said this is a life experience, and no matter what, the station would be there to support me and cheer me on.
I armed myself with these words of encouragement, and for about four hours a week for two months, I practiced.
Chris and I chose an 80's song, Madonna's "Material Girl" because I am so stuck in that decade.
I brought my 6- year-old Samantha with me sometimes, and she would just shake her head and say, "Mommy, I think you need to keep practicing!"
I literally had a nightmare that I would forget the routine the day of the event.
Then the big day arrived.
There was a dress rehearsal that day, and folks, I am not kidding, I thought I was going to faint!
The other dancers were so good! They were doing all these acrobatics and movements. I literally cried.
But my dance pro, Chris, kept telling me we would be fine. We practiced in what was a make-up room and he said after all the practice I "knew" the routine. And, if I did forget, he was there to lead me.
Plus, my biggest fan, my wonderful husband Dave, was in the audience. I knew he would be cheering me on.
Then it was time. Linda and Jamison gave me the sweetest intro onto the stage that literally made my heart sing.
I walked on stage and danced--something I thought I could never do.
I did forget a few steps and forgot to smile at the beginning, but I did it!
The audience cheered and I finally could let out a deep breathe.
I didn't win the competition, I was a runner up. But, I felt that this was a true personal victory and even a bigger one for the community.
The greatest reward was all of YOUR support. The votes were $10 a piece and the money benefits charity. In all, I received 1,171 votes!
Julie said this was a record breaking year, with Hands Across the Bay bringing in more than $250,000.
There are so many people to thank that helped me throughout this journey. My colleagues, my husband Dave, all of you who watched my practices that I posted on Facebook and cheered me on.
And all those that voted! Thank you to each and everyone.
As I said in the very beginning, the least I thought I could do is dance. I hope by doing so, I helped just a little.
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