The 11th Annual Dancing with The ARK’s Stars is just around the corner and participants have already begun rehearsals.
The event pairs professional dancers from Ballroom Dance Charleston with local personalities for a dance-off similar to the well known TV show, "Dancing with the Stars" from ABC.
This year, six local celebrities are working with professional dancers from BallRoom Dance Charleston to create routines.
The fundraiser on May 15 will support the ARK, a local nonprofit that cares for families living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia.
The event is needed more than ever this year amidst COVID-19.
The ARK had to shut down in March, like many nonprofits across the globe, in response to the coronavirus. Megan Severn, Director of Development and Communications at the ARK, explained that the year was a hard one for the community they serve. In November, when The Ark slowly began reopening, they were anxious to start finding ways to reconnect safely with families.
“We slowly started kind of opening back up in November, but it really took a bit for everyone to come together and kind of figure out what was going to be the safest way to offer support for the families and get the social respite care program back up,” Severn said.
As they continue to transition back open, many online resources and programs utilized throughout the ongoing pandemic remain available, and the ability to still safely host the upcoming dance event is crucial.
Ritamay Ranck, dance participant and nurse consultant, is no newcomer to the event, She has been attending Dancing With The Ark Stars as a table sponsor since its second year.
“Several people have unofficially asked me if I would dance in prior years, but this is the first year that I was formally asked,” Ranck explained.
Besides being named as Mrs. Summerville, Mrs. South Carolina and Mrs. US United, which brought in a national title, Ranck has been an active community member for many years. She has served on the Keep Dorchester County Beautiful board, held the role of president of The Summerville Republican Women’s Club and now is serving her third term on the Dorchester County Parks and Recreation Commission.
But more relevantly, Ranck is a registered nurse and has worked with many families throughout her hospice and caregiving career. At times, she has even cared for individuals that were participating in the ARK.
“After working with hospice for several years, I became very frustrated trying to help families find caregivers that would come into their homes to stay with their terminal family member so that they could go get groceries, go to the doctors, get their hair done, or sleep during the night,” Ranck said.
It was a service that hospice didn’t seem to provide so in response, Ranck decided to form her own caregiving company. In 2002, Caregivers Unlimited, LLC was established. Ranck owned the business until January 2019 when she decided to sell it to the current owner. She still works for the company as a nurse consultant today.
“I have had several family members who have passed away with this disease. My grandfather's sister, my great Aunt Betty, was the first person with the disease that I took care of,” Ranck said.
As a 13-year-old, Ranck said that she would walk over to her great aunt's house every evening to help her get ready for bed and sleep there overnight in order to help her get ready in the morning, with just enough time to catch the bus for school.
Ranck expressed some nerves about performing her routine while still healing from a recent arm surgery. Ranck hopes to raise between $15,000 and $20,000.
“I am the least rhythmic person that I know. I have no dance experience whatsoever. It will be the most terrifying three minutes of the year for me,” said Ranck.
But that isn't an unusual case. Severn says that almost none of the performers have previous dance experience prior to the event, they simply want to be part of the cause.
On the night of the event, the participants showcase their routine, and judges give out two awards. These include the Judges award which is an award for the best dance routine of the night and the People's Choice award which is an award for the person who raised the most money.
“It's a very fun, unique, event. Aside from that, we have a silent auction going on and dancing, so it's just a great time for the community to come together for fun. Overall it brings awareness for the Ark and our mission,” Severn said.
The event will take place at 7 p.m. at the Lowcountry Conference Center, Summerville Hilton, 406 Sigma Dr. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the events website for $70 or at the door for $80, and includes an open bar and heavy d’oeuvres. Cocktail attire is requested.