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It’s nine o’clock on a Monday night and Keith Lavimodiere is just stepping out onto the dance floor at The Dancin’ Feelin’ studio in Warwick. It’s one of several practices the vice president and branch manager of The Washington Trust Co.’s Reservoir Avenue branch in Cranston will have with professional dance partner Deb O’Donnell, as he prepares for his big night.
Lavimodiere is one of seven “celebrity” dancers at this year’s Dancing with the Stars of Mentoring, a fundraiser and ballroom-dance competition that will be held on April 26th at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston to benefit the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership, a nonprofit that promotes and supports a network of youth-mentoring programs around Rhode Island.
Lavimodiere says he loves to dance but ultimately found himself in the competition after going to last year’s event and bragging to one of his colleagues about his abilities. The colleague is a member of the Mentoring Partnership’s board of directors and responded to his boasts by asking him to take part this year.
“I was mentored … growing up and always found that having a mentor who could give some good advice, some guidance, and point you in the right direction, really helped me along the way,” he said. “And I thought this would be a wonderful way to try and help and give back.”
His employer is also an event sponsor.
Elizabeth Eckel, senior vice president of marketing at Washington Trust, said the company “wants to support worthy causes in the state but more importantly we want to support the activities in which our employees are involved because if it’s important them, it’s important to us. I think it makes them a much happier employee.”
That corporate support has begun to play a huge role in organizing the event and selecting who takes part. The fundraiser, in its sixth year, originally focused on local “celebrities” like members of the media, politicians, sports stars and others with name recognition. But in the past couple of years that has shifted. Now, the majority of the “celebrity” dancers are management-level employees at some of Rhode Island’s biggest businesses.