PHILADELPHIA – A good time was had by all last night in Opa, a Greek restaurant at 1311 Sansom Street in Center City Philadelphia. Exquisite Greek delight flowed from the kitchen and libations flowed from the central bar staffed, in part, by local celebrities. This was Celebrity Bartender Night, a preview gathering to promote the annual fundraiser, “Dancing with the Philadelphia Stars.”
Later this month, 9 local celebrities will square off with ballroom dances from the Argentine tango to the foxtrot. Each represent fancy footwork in the fight against sickle cell anemia. This sickling blood disorder impacts high numbers of African Americans and Hispanics. Unfortunately many Americans have never heard of the disease and certainly do not realize 1 out of every 500 African Americans suffer from the disorder, and 1 out of every 10 – 12 of them carry the trait.
Part of the work of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Philadelphia/Delaware Valley is raising awareness. “We wanted to do something that would catch the people’s attention,” explained SCDAA Executive Director Stanley Simpkins. “Wow,” he further exclaimed, “what better way to get people to take notice!”
From all indications, last night’s preview event was a rousing success. The crowd certainly talked enough to make the 4th year of Dancing with the Philadelphia Stars a sold-out event.
Philadelphia’s response during the evening pleased SCDAA Adminstrator Zamoria A. Brandon. She explained, “It’s our first time doing a pre-event like this.” Seeing people network while enjoying drinks and appetizers provided a rewarding experience. She also observed, “It’s a diverse group, and that’s nice.”
For example, Sarah Pelkey came out to support celebrity friend Marisa Magnatta, an associate producer of WMMR’s Preston & Steve Show turned bartender. “I think it is a really fine event,” Pelkey said clearly enjoying herself. She was referring to the night’s fun, as well as the charity cause. Although lacking a ticket at the moment for the upcoming show, she anticipated going to Dancing with the Philadelphia Stars.
Several of the 9 local stars served as bartenders throughout happy hour at Opa. Pelkey’s friend, Marisa Magnatta felt more comfortable shaking hands than handling a drink shaker. Magnatta, nevertheless, is well prepared for her turn on the dance floor. She has practiced with Jesse Smith-Dow, her pro dance partner, for months. She stated, “The event is full of some great people. I am really excited.”
Magnatta’s fellow volunteer bartenders represent 2 of those great people. Julie Dorenbos looked like a real pro taking orders and serving beverages. Dorenbos is co-owner of Skin Palette and wife of Philadelphia Eagle Jon Dorenbos. News reporter Kharisma McIlwaine of CW Philly/CBS3 rounded out the stars meeting and greeting guests at preview night.
The bigger event, just 11 days away on Sunday, April 22 features cocktails, dining, a silent auction that includes a private chef’s dinner at Opa, and , of course, the dance competition. Professionals from Society Hill Dance Academy are swinging the celebrities into shape for the 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. event at the Crystal Tea Room, upstairs in Philadelphia’s treasured Wanamaker Building.
In addition to the celebrities already mentioned, competing for the title of dance star are City Councilwoman Marian Tasco; Kevin Gatto, owner of Verde Salon and beauty expert for Talk Philly; Eric Cortes of Telemundo Philadelphia; Nina Tinari, partner in T2 Consultants LLC and former assistant to Gov. Rendell; co-owner of Water Works Restaurant Anatasia Karloutsos; and Managing Editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer Michael Days.
Their dancing talents will be judged by: Le Deva Davis, the director of dance at the Philadelphia High School for Performing Arts; Shaun Lamere Williams, artistic director at Eleone Dance Theatre; and City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, the celebrity judge and 2010 Dancing with the Philadelphia Stars participant.
The hope is this 2012 event will surpass the previous mark. Lorina Marshall-Blake, vice president of government relations at Independence Blue Cross danced off a winner at the last black-tie event, but the true winner was SCDAA and the people helped by the more than $50,000 that event raised. The current goal is $60,000.
For more information about Dancing with the Philadelphia Stars, visit www.dancingwiththephiladelphiastars.com or call 215.471.8686. Also, gain up to the minute details on Twitter @DancePhillyStar, and visit www.sicklecelldisorder.com to learn more about sickle cell anemia.
Key sponsors of Dancing with the Philadelphia Stars are Brownstone PR, The Philadelphia Foundation, and Society Hill Dancing Academy.
All rights to this article are reserved by Gloria Blakely. Copyright 2012.