John Venuti, chief of VCU Police, polishes his dance routine with instructor Eleanor Robertson.

Dancing with the Richmond Stars to shine with luminaries of the VCU constellation

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Ten local stars, including four leading lights from Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health, will engage in a dance battle on March 11 to raise money for a kid-friendly art installation inside the Children’s Pavilion, the new Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU facility opening on Broad Street.

The Dancing with the Richmond Stars competition, which is in its sixth year, will feature a panel of local celebrity judges keeping a close watch on the dancers’ every move – all in the name of raising money for the installation, an interactive project that will use high-tech walls and floors featuring motion sensors and optical cameras to provide children of all ages with an unforgettable, vivid experience. Installations such as this one are used in children’s hospitals around the country to help children in a clinical setting feel more comfortable, excited and fearless.

“A healthy community begins with our children,” said Deborah Zimmermann, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at VCU Health and a featured competitor this year. “In addition to our vision to be America’s safest and most caring health system, VCU Health is accountable for improving the health status of our communities. The beautiful CHoR Pavilion is a symbol of our commitment to the region and to the future.”

To prepare for the big night, each contestant receives 12 hours of donated dance lessons from dance professionals at Rigby’s Jig Dance Studio in Richmond. Event guests can expect dancers to show off rocking routines, costumes and a lot of spirit to support the Children’s Pavilion.

Dancing with the Richmond Stars began in 2011. Since then, 57 performers have helped raise more than $429,000 through the event for Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

“It is an honor to participate in this worthy fundraising event,” Zimmermann said. “I am not a dancer, I am not coordinated, and this event is well beyond my comfort zone. I am grateful to Chris Broom, my professional dance partner from Rigby’s Jig, who has the patience of a saint. My goal is to pack in as many lessons as possible, remain upright and not trip Chris while we are dancing.”

Vigneshwar Kasirajan, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery in the VCU School of Medicine, will also be on this year’s dance card.

I choose to challenge myself and work way outside of my comfort zone due to the importance of the cause and the mission of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

“I am happy to participate in this event for the CHoR Pavilion and to help with the mural for the kids,” Kasirajan said. “I am very pleased that the pavilion is opening soon to benefit all children in and around Richmond. I am preparing by practice, practice and more practice.”

John Venuti, chief of VCU Police, said the opportunity to contribute helped him overcome his wariness of sliding into his dancing shoes in front of an audience.

“I don’t dance; the easiest thing I could have done was say ‘No,’” Venuti said. “I choose to challenge myself and work way outside of my comfort zone due to the importance of the cause and the mission of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. Honestly, I would rather run into a room after someone with a gun than do this. My dance partner and instructor, Eleanor Robertson, contributes so much to this fundraising event that I really only have one option … practice, practice, practice. When the buzzer sounds, I’ll dance like hell.”


Other 2016 Richmond Stars include:

  • Sean McKenna, M.D., assistant professor of general pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
  • Brett Bonda, managing director, Richmond Ballet.
  • Suzanne Gardner, senior vice president business, banking manager, Wells Fargo.
  • Preston Hall, realtor, Coldwell Banker.
  • Amanda Malkowski, reporter/anchor, ABC 8 News (WRIC).
  • Britni McDonald, anchor/reporter, NBC 12 (WWBT).
  • Dawn Siegel, community volunteer.


Ways to support the event:

Tickets and general donations: Tickets for the performance and a gala celebration can be purchased online and are 65-percent tax deductible. For those who cannot attend the performance, 100-percent tax-deductible donations are also welcome:

T-shirts: Richmond T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts and sweatpants starting at $19.99 are available for purchase through Apparel features an artistic rendering of Richmond’s skyline with color accents from the Children’s Hospital of Richmond logo. Proceeds from sales go to the Children’s Pavilion:


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