She’s known as the tap-dancing mayor, taking to the dance floor to get the word out about an issue or help a charitable cause. So it’s no surprise that Marsha McLean is once again putting on her dancing shoes to raise money for not one, but two nonprofit organizations in the upcoming Dancing With Our Stars event April 2 at the Odyssey Restaurant.
McLean is dancing to benefit the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry and the Santa Clarita Winter Shelter, two charities embraced by the city and both in critical need because of the current economic climate.
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“These are two groups who help so many people in our community, I’m happy to help them raise money,” McLean said. “Every charity has its own challenges. The more pledges you get, the better your chances of winning, but it’s not all about the winning. Any amount of money brought in is money they didn’t have before.”
This isn’t her first time at the rodeo, either. In 2010, she stepped up to fill a vacant dancer position to help LARC Ranch when she heard they might be dropping out of the entertaining competition.
“I was more than willing to do that,” she recalled. “We did the foxtrot, which was something new to me. I had never done ballroom dancing, which is quite different from tap dancing.”
McLean admits to a life-long love affair with dancing, especially tap.
“My mother started giving me lessons when I was 4 ½ and then when I got older, in my teens, I didn’t dance,” she said. “When I went to Paris to work, I started taking ballet lessons and that got me back into it. When I moved up here in the 70s, I needed exercise and didn’t like to go to the gym. Reena Newhall had exercise classes at the church on McBean, but then she opened up a dance studio and I started taking tap dancing lessons again.”
She has tapped under the tutelage of several big names, including Alex Plaesschart, who danced with Gene Kelly and she studied at the Debbie Reynolds Studios in Hollywood. She danced in shows to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club and straps on the noisy footwear any chance she gets at the Canyon Theatre Guild.
“It’s fantastic exercise,” she added. “I really, truly enjoy it.”
Regarding the popular video she made as part of a statewide campaign to keep Sacramento legislators out of the pockets of local governments, McLean is still proud. Was it different? Absolutely. Edgy? Sure. But with thousands of YouTube hits, she got more attention than anyone else and that was OK by her.
(Click here to see the video)
Anna Ott, who brought the event to Santa Clarita after watching a performance in Palm Springs, does a lot of matchmaking before the performance. She recruits dancers who are community leaders and pairs them with dancers who are professionals or teach dancing to others. They pair select the style of dance they’d like to perform – all of the styles are within the ballroom genre – and the pair is turned loose in the rehearsal studio.
Because they “win” the competition by raising the most money, dancers are encouraged to hold pre-event fundraisers where donors cast proxy votes with every $25 donation to the charity. All charities handle their own money, which is brought to the April 2 event and counted, along with “votes” received when the couples take to the floor.
And unlike traditional voting – such as the last City Council election when McLean was the top vote-getter in the city – there is no limit to how many votes you can cast.
The Food Pantry is a new participant in the event, as is the Winter Shelter.
The Food Pantry has been distributing food to low-income residents of the Santa Clarita Valley since 1986 and works out of a small storefront on Railroad Avenue in Newhall. More than 100 regular volunteers carry out the work of the pantry, which had nearly 43,000 client visits in the last year. To vote for Marsha and help the Food Pantry, make donations online through PayPal or through the www.scvfoodpantry.org web link to Pay Pal or mail a check (with “Dancing With Our Stars” in the memo line) to 24133 Railroad Avenue, Newhall, CA 91321. Credit card donations may be made by calling Belinda Crawford, Executive Director, at 661 255-9078.
The Winter Shelter operates from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily from December 1 to March 16 at its Drayton Drive location. The 54-bed facility provides shelter and meals to those in need and refers families to available hotels. This year the shelter will host an on-site nurse, drug and alcohol meetings, health and dental clinics and shelter staff will provide case management to clients who want to get back on their feet. To vote for Marsha and help the Winter Shelter, go to their website at www.santaclaritashelter.com, mail your check to SCCDC, P.O. Box 802978, Santa Clarita, CA 91380-2978, or call 661-259-1298.
Other charities involved in Dancing With Our Stars include the SCV Senior Center, Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Soroptimist, the American Red Cross, LARC Ranch, Family Promise, Single Mothers Outreach, Carousel Ranch, the American Diabetes Association, the Canyon Theatre Guild, Santa Clarita Domestic Violence Association and Cystic Fibrosis. For more information or to buy tickets for the event, visit www.scvstars.com.