Post-merger activities typically consider all areas of a company and so it came that Keith Wilson, President of MANN+HUMMEL Filtration Technology, brought up a topic that was obviously important for Wix-Filtron: Charity. Keith introduced us to the long culture of WIX to care for the people and families and how donations and personal involvement in the community is seen as an investment. One of the projects MANN+HUMMEL Filtration supports since a couple years is the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Gaston (BGC). A nationwide organization with a mission to help children who cannot receive appropriate care and upbringing from their parent.

The clubs in Gastonia offer educational afterschool and summer programs in a caring environment while professional caregivers provide a variety of education, inspiration and guidance . As a result, these kids and teens receive better grades in school and are significantly less involved in gangs, juvenile crime and teen pregnancy. “Dancing with the Stars” is a well-known TV show what made me worry when Mary Catherine Walker, Executive Assistant at MANN+HUMMEL Filtration, asked me if I would participate in a similar charity event in Gastonia.

“Dancing for Future Stars” is the annual fundraising event organized by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Gaston to raise money to finance its educational programs. The rules are straightforward: 8 celebrity dancers commit to raise a minimum amount of money and compete with one ballroom and one freestyle dance during a show night in front of a high-class jury and hundreds of well-paying spectators.

Knowing about the attention this project usually gathers in the community I definitely felt honored to be considered for this job but with no background in fundraising and a limited network in the city of Gastonia I was concerned our team could stay behind our abilities. Even more when I learned that I was following on big footsteps with Mary Catherine being the winner in 2015 and Tim Ciurlik, VP Finance and Controlling, having raised nearly 60.000 US dollars the year before.

Anyway, there was not much time to hesitate, as the project was kicked-off soon with an outstanding introduction dinner where I met my fellow celebrity dancers – 4 ladies, 3 gentlemen – for the first time. It should not be the last time the team of the BGC should impress me with their passionate and professional work for good cause.

Back in the office we started planning the fundraising activities. We had about 5 months left until the show and were in need of a program that would attract as many donators as possible. Mary Catherine took the lead in managing the roadmap and built a wonderful team pulling the strings to organize about a dozen fundraising events at MANN+HUMMEL Filtration. Sara Longardner, Communication Manager MANN+HUMMEL Filtration, created a Facebook site and made sure everybody knew how to donate online.

 

 

Another tactical question was when to start the dance lessons with my professional dance teacher. Every dancer could use up to 25 lessons to prepare the two dances and I wanted to make sure not running out of lessons weeks before the show.

I quickly learned that dancing with a professional competition teacher is not only a phenomenal dance experience. It rather means rigorous and disciplined training for many weeks. We tried several dances and decided on a Viennese Waltz for the introduction dance and a Polka as the second fun dance. While working on the Polka it finally became clear that I would have to leave behind any vanity and just do whatever I am told to.

Balancing the dance training, fundraising events, job and family was manageable but I realized how much effort so many people and their families invest in various kind of charity work on an ongoing basis. And I was really proud to see the great participation and donations made by our colleagues at MANN+HUMMEL Filtration.

The last month before the show was a mix of frustration and excitement. Performance up and downs, some routines still not working and donations slowing down led me feel unsure if we would have any chance for a good result. I started writing letters to potential donators asking for their support, convinced friends to pay $ 200 per ticket to see me dancing and I began additional practicing at home at night.

March 18th, 2017 was the day of the event. The halls in the Gaston Country Club were beautifully decorated and dress rehearsal started around lunch time. It was the first time the celebrity dancers saw each other’s performance and everybody was watching the “competition” carefully. Obviously, our teachers had selected different dances fitting the person to assure variety and an exciting program. The team spirit among the 8 dancers was outstanding and we were able to enjoy every minute of this special event.

The show was unbelievable and I recommend to have the pictures telling the story. The MANN+HUMMEL Filtration team was of great support in cheering on and I guess everybody jumped up when we were finally awarded “Grand Champion” for scoring 80.5 out of possible 80 points in dancing and having raised USD 75,925,-. The second highest amount ever raised for the Boys & Girls Club since 2009.

Let me thank again our phenomenal MANN+HUMMEL Filtration team for all their support and contribution to this outstanding result. I felt honored to represent our company in the community and I am even more proud about our great achievement for a good cause.