Former NHL hockey player Sheldon Kennedy with his dance partner Jena Smith of Sundre strike a pose on the stairwell above the Sheraton Hotel ballroom Friday prior to the Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off. Eight celebrities including Rollie Cyr, Jodie Schreiner, Colleen Manning, Dustin Snider, Jesse Wallin, karen Goranson and Sherri Ryckman paired up with dance professionals in a competition in support of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre. See story on pages 18-19 (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Sheraton Red Deer Celebrity Dance Off expected to raise close to $1 million.

Before the cha cha cha-ing even began, Sheraton Red Deer Celebrity Dance Off merited a “10.”

Co-chair Christine Moore said her expectations have already been exceeded at this year’s event for the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.

“It’s gone really well. We’re expecting our dancers and pledges alone to raise about $500,000,” Moore said on Friday.

“That’s unprecedented for this event. That’s very, very exciting for us.”

“Going in, I thought in total if we made $500,000 it would be a banner year. But we know for sure they’ve knocked it out of the park.”

Sheldon Kennedy, who was to take to the floor in the evening, was grateful for all of the support at the 1,000-seat sold-out event.

“I think it’s awesome,” said the former NHL player.

“If we look at the whole event, not just the dancers and what they raised, but the overall event and the overall money that’s going to be raised, it’s going to be close to a million bucks.

“And that’s absolutely huge.”

The child advocacy centre is being modelled after the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary, which supports children, youth and families affected by child physical and sexual abuse.

The funds from the celebrity dance event will help see the sex assault support centre and child advocacy centre housed under one roof.

More than the money, the event has shone a light on the issues of early childhood trauma, child abuse and sexual abuse, said Kennedy.

“If we’re not reaching kids early, we’re losing them. We’re losing them to the streets. We’re losing them to crime, addictions or suicide.

“When you look at the community that’s come out and supported this, a sold-out crowd. That tells me there’s buy-in and that’s what we need in communities.”

Colleen Manning, owner of Red Deer’s Studio Pilates is a Dance Off first-timer.

“It’s been an honour to be a part of this because it’s such a community builder,” she said. “The community has been so generous. It’s just unbelievable.”

Practising and fine-tuning her performance with partner Bryan Senn, of Calgary, has been a great experience as well.

“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s just been fun to be involved.

“But it’s not about us in any way. We’re just the show that brings people together,” she said.

“The underlying feel of it all is the generosity and the way it will help our families and kids in the future.”

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