When Craig Schnuck asked if I would compete in Dancing with the St. Louis Stars to support Independence Center, I felt honored.…and a little apprehensive. Because I can’t dance. I knew I couldn’t win based on my dancing, especially against CEOs who had been taking private lessons and practicing for months. But I am a competitor by nature, so I turned to the words of the great Buffalo Bills coach, Marv Levy: “Winning didn’t need to be the goal. Winning will come if you do the other things.” So we did those other things. We tapped into the competitive drive, generosity and good will of the wonderful people on our team at Major Brands, our retail customers and supplier partners, to spread the word about our campaign: “Bad Dancing for a Good Cause.” We held several vote-raisers, featuring signature cocktails and drink specials, attracting hundreds of supporters and patrons for our hosts. We challenged friends and family to vote early and often. The night of the performance, my back-up dancers from the Gateway Men’s Chorus were fantastic, as was my long-suffering partner, Senzo Makhaye. They kept the audience’s attention where it belonged, and made me look good. In the end, it was the strength and spirit of the Major Brands family – and the power of the individual vote – that helped make the 2014 Dancing with the St. Louis Stars a record-breaking success. It was exciting to be this year’s top vote-getter and crowd favorite. But even more importantly, I am grateful to have been part of a team victory for Independence Center, for the thousands of adults it serves who are living with serious mental illness, and for the St. Louis Community.
Susan B. McCollum
Chairman and CEO, Major Brands
When I was asked to participate in Dancing with the STL Stars, I was deeply honored and initially excited. I love to dance (though I have not had any formal training), love the show and love to give back. What I didn’t realize was how important the cause or how difficult the task! As I learned more about the work of the Independence Center, I became keenly aware that I had been entrusted with great responsibility; to build awareness for an incredible organization who serves a population with incredible need. Raising money was the easy part; a true labor of love. The greater challenge, dancing! I found that my love of dancing and my natural ability for dancing were less aligned than I envisioned. Fortunately, I was in the capable hands of Michael Fitzgerald. Through his patience and encouragement, I was challenged to trust and overcome fear and self-doubt. What an amazing sense of accomplishment! As I reflected on the months of preparation, the fear and anxiety of dancing in front of hundreds of people, I was reminded of something. My fear was temporary. Those struggling with mental illness and the families and friends who love them live in fear every day.
Cynthia Mercer
Senior VP and Chief Administrative Officer, Mercy
Performing in Dancing with the St. Louis Stars is an experience of a lifetime! To take a shot at doing something you’ve never done before – and in front of almost 500 people to boot – is a huge adrenaline rush. Anybody who has the chance to do it would be crazy not to give it a try. The professional instructors are a delight. They are flexible with scheduling, eager to teach, and patient with beginners. And the event itself is fantastic. When the celebrity dancers lay it all out there – while helping out a splendid cause at the same time – it makes for a spectacular evening of entertainment. I’ve participated in and attended hundreds of charitable events during my career and this one clearly takes the cake!
Tom Minogue
Chairman, Thompson Coburn