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'Dancing For the Stars' participants help raise funds for Phillips Strickland House

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image courtesy Phillips-Strickland House image courtesy Phillips-Strickland House

BANGOR - The new season of 'Dancing With the Stars' starts Monday, March 19, on ABC, but the new cast has nothing on Maine's own Dancing For the Stars competitors, who are slated to perform at the Bangor Civic Center on March 17. The fundraiser, which benefits the Phillips Strickland House, a non-profit retirement home, teams up well-known locals with trained dancers from the Robinson Ballet.

"We have such a great mix of professionals and stars from the community that the enthusiasm from this group is just infectious. They're just gung-ho," said Karen Higgins of Phillips Strickland House.

Maria Baeza, an American Folk Festival board member, is one of the local stars that will be performing at the event. She and her dance partner, David Lamon of Ellsworth, will be doing a tango routine.

"I'm really excited about it. I'm a competitor and I was an athlete growing up so you should see me at practice, I'll be 'Oh I forgot that step, let's do it again,'" explained Baeza.

Participant Ben Sprague and his professional dance partner Stevie Dunham have been working hard on their routine as well.

"We are doing a waltz with maybe a surprise twist towards the end. We are not telling anybody exactly what the routine entails; you have to come to the show to find out," said Sprague.

The six teams involved in this year's event will be performing one dance routine each, and then all of them will join one another on stage for a group routine.

"Last week we had a group practice, and the cool thing is everyone brought something unique to the table. I think we all want to win," said Baeza.

Participants will be performing in front of a panel of judges, which includes Maine's First Lady Ann LePage, Bangor dentist Jeff Fister, and Ginger Hwalek from the University of Maine Music Department. However, it will be up to the audience to decide who wins. For a $1 a vote, those in attendance can vote as many times as they like for which team they feel should be crowned Dancing For the Stars champion.

"Our goal is to raise $32,000 at the event," said Higgins. "We're the only independent nonprofit that provides for people at the assisted living level regardless of their ability to pay, so this [fundraiser] helps fill the gap between Medicaid reimbursements from the state and what the actual cost of care truly is."

Ben Sprague's family has relied on the Phillips Strickland House in the past to care for their loved ones.

"Both of my grandmothers have lived at the Phillips Strickland House, and both the residents and staff there deserve our full support. This is a special place, and it means a lot to my family and I," explained Sprague.

The public will also get to boogie at the event. A dance featuring the RETROROCKERZ will be held immediately following the Dancing For the Stars competition.

"Not only are people going to watch a dance presentation, but they'll get the bug and be able to dance afterwards," said Baeza.

Tickets are $40 and can be purchased through Sharon Nickerson at the Phillips Strickland House by calling 941-2820 or by emailing her at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The competition will begin at 7 p.m.

For a complete list of the Dancing For the Stars participants, log on to


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