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Dancers bring star power to benefit for Abilis

September 19, 2018

GREENWICH — If the fundraiser for Greenwich-based Abilis on Saturday night bears some resemblance to a certain hit TV show, that is no coincidence.

Local celebrities will take a spin on the dance floor in front of a panel of judges for the first-ever Dancing Stars of Greenwich, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Tamarack Country Club.

The proceeds of the event will benefit Abilis, a Greenwich based nonprofit that provides services and support for more than 700 children to adults with special needs as well as their families. Organizers are hoping for a fun, celebratory gala, which is the result of a partnership between Abilis and The Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Greenwich.

With cuts in state funding in recent years due to continued budget woes, Abilis officials said private fundraising is absolutely critical, which gives events such as the gala extra importance.

“We rely on donors to to help with our programs and services,” said Amy Montimurro, president and CEO of Abilis. “We are so grateful for organizations like the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Greenwich for bringing their ‘stars’ to help Abilis raise funds. ... It’s exciting to have the Greenwich studio dedicate their time and efforts to Abilis.”

There will be some star power among the judges, too. Brendan Fraser, star of the “Mummy” movies as well as the critically acclaimed “Gods and Monsters” and the recent FX miniseries “Trust,” will be on the judges panel iconic fashion model Paulina Porizkova and Billy Blanks Jr., an acclaimed dancer, director and choreographer from Greenwich who has worked with Britney Spears, Alicia Keys and Madonna.

“The event is full of all the fun, glitz and glamour of ‘Dancing With The Stars,’” Elmar Schmidt, owner and ballroom dance instructor at Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Greenwich, said in a statement. “Local stars and leaders in the community have been training to compete just like on television. And, just like on the hit TV show, a panel of celebrity judges along with the audience will select the winner who will win the coveted Mirror Ball trophy.”

A similar dance-themed gala has been successful in Brookfield, where in its first two years it has raised more than $103,000 for local charities.

One of the dancers in Greenwich will be Afton Fraser, a town resident, author and former actress who appeared in “Reality Bites,” “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “George of the Jungle.” Abilis is close to her heart, said Fraser, a mother of three sons, one of whom has autism.

“I think about my son’s future a lot,” Fraser said. “And when I do knowing there’s a place like Abilis that does so much in terms of giving people a place to live and advocating for them always reassures and calms me.”

She started dancing a year ago at the Astaire studio in town and wanted to be a part of Saturday’s gala.

“It’s combining something I love to do in dancing with a great charity,” she said. “It’s a great fit.”

For now, Fraser is focused on supporting a good cause. But by Saturday, she laughed and said she might be more focused on winning. She joked that her ex-husband Brendan Fraser, with whom she shares three sons, might end up being “too fair” when it comes to judging her dancing.

Greenwich resident Rita Mirella Lurito, a former banker who can dance everything from ballroom style to hip-hop, salsa and jazz, will also take part in the competition. Lurito is a member of Abilis’ board and has been involved with the nonprofit for more than 15 years.

Lisa Colpit, a mother and a resident of Old Greenwich, is another who will be showing her stuff on the dance floor as takes a break from her job as a physician and the associate dean for faculty development at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University.

Another town resident who will be putting on her dancing shoes to support Abilis will be Leanna Andreou. A native of Canada, Andreou is president of the Greenwich Newcomers Club and volunteers for Abilis, The Junior League of Greenwich, Kids in Crisis, Inspirica and Neighbor to Neighbor. A former PTA leader at Riverside School, Eastern Middle School and Greenwich High School, she is an associate partner at Keller Williams Prestige Properties.

Guests at the gala can also enjoy a VIP cocktail reception, a gourmet dinner, live music from Hot Cat Jazz Band, performances from dancers from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio and can hit the dance floor, too. Items will also be up for auction to raise money for Abilis.

Tickets can be purchased at www.fredastaire.com/greenwich/shop/dancing-stars or by calling 203-340-2760.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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