National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin Hosts Dancing Fundraiser

Ripple Effect



Spotlight on Life Gala

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They have spent months learning the right moves, and now the "celebrity" dancers for the National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin's Spotlight on Life Gala are ready to show off. The event, which takes place Saturday, January 25 in Milwaukee, showcases six competitors from transplant and organ procurement organizations dancing with professionals from Fred Astaire Dance Studios.


The National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin (NKFW) began the fundraiser in 2009 to give transplant recipients participating in the 2010 U.S. Transplant Games in Madison an opportunity to perform in front of a live audience. The event was so successful, NKFW decided to repeat it, inviting transplant recipients and others in the transplant community to compete.


All funds raised allow NKFW to deliver educational programs free of charge to organizations throughout Wisconsin. These organ donation and transplant recipient programs support NKFW's mission to increase the availability of all organs.


At this year's gala, Mary Francois, RN, MS, CCTC, cardiopulmonary transplant manager and interim clinical operations director for UW Hospital Transplant, and Christy Hunter, BSN, CCRN, clinical manager at UW Organ and Tissue Donation, are representing UW Health. For Hunter, kidney disease and its associated complications are intensely personal: Her older sister, who had type 1 diabetes, died after undergoing dialysis for kidney failure. "My sister has been a huge influence on my life," says Hunter. "I am dancing for her."


Francois's best friend received three lung transplants before she died in 2006. "Transplant is now my passion because I saw how it prolonged her life and gave her valuable time with her family," she says.


Spotlight on Life Gala Slidehow


See a few photos from the dancers as they practice. Click on the image to start.


Celebrity Dance Teams from the Spotlight on Life Gala


In addition to the six competitors, three other members of the transplant and donation community are dancing: Jack Eigel, a heart recipient from UW Health, is dancing with Janet Ramsey, the mother of his donor; and last year's winner, Bridget Clementi of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, is performing an encore of her winning dance.


The panel of judges includes Patrick Fernan, administrator of the Department of Transportation's Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV); Neal Barney, MD, a cornea transplant surgeon at UW Hospital; and Brian Peterson, chief medical examiner for Milwaukee County.


If you want to contribute to the cause, there are three ways you can do so on NKFW's website:

  1. Buy a ticket or table for yourself, or donate a ticket so a patient awaiting a transplant can attend the event.
  2. Donate an item or service to the silent auction, which features both traditional auction offerings (such as a weekend at a cottage) as well as the "Gallery of Life"—a group of unique, handmade items created by recipients, living donors, donor family members and others in the transplant and donation community. "We want to honor the gifts of the people in our community," says Cindy Huber, chief executive officer of NKFW. "Through these items, people will be able to share their stories. Anyone is invited to donate."
  3. Donate $1 to support your favorite dancer or transplant center. While the judges will be choosing the overall winner, fans will select the winner of the "Institutional Award."

Huber expects about 300 people to attend the event — many of whom have ties to UW Health. "We really appreciate that UW Health has supported us so much," she says.