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LifeQuest's Dancing for Dreams benefit brings in over $53,000

Funds to support 401 Create in downtown Mitchell

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Colton Thiesfled celebrating after his dance routine at the Dancing for Dreams on March 25, 2022 at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — It had been a long three years for dancers to wait to take the floor following LifeQuest’s first Dancing for Dreams event was held in Mitchell.

That’s what Brian Loken, development director for LifeQuest in Mitchell, said following the Friday night fundraiser at the Highlands Conference Center, which saw six couples dance the night away in an effort to raise funds to support the organization’s recently-opened 401 Create.

“(The dancers) blew the last three years of planning away,” said Loken. “They just did great. We had three years of energy pent up and they just had a blast. The dancers did awesome and we had a full house. We have a lot of people who have helped us out, not just with Dancing for Dreams but with LifeQuest as an organization over the years. We’re really happy.”

The participants and their supporters managed to bring in $53,184, nearly as much as the approximately $55,000 raised for the inaugural event three years ago. Among the six couples who competed before the crowd, Scott and Melanie Mullenmeister topped the earners with $6,375.

Also taking part in the event were dancing couples Ross and Amber Determan, Marius and Heidi Laursen, Brett and Julie Schutte, Kenny and Deb Wagner and Matt and Jill Zens. The Zens were also named the recipient of the People’s Choice award at the fundraiser, the first time the award has been given out.

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Mike and Tari Gerlach, who were a dance couple at the 2019 event, also returned for an encore performance, Loken said.

The fact that this year’s campaign nearly matched the inaugural event three years ago in earnings despite only having six dancing couples compared to eight in 2019 is testament to the strong support the Mitchell community shows to LifeQuest.

“To have just six couples and for all their friends and family to step up and raise just about as much as eight couples did three years ago is fantastic,” Loken said.

The event had only been held once before when LifeQuest introduced the first Dancing for Dreams fundraiser in 2019. Despite the success seen in the event’s inaugural year, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 upended any plans to host such a gathering for the next two years.

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Matt and Jill Zens performing their dance routine at the Dancing for Dreams on March 25, 2022 at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

The first go-around for Dancing for Dreams was met with strong community support, selling out the event. That support has not waned, with the return of the evening of dancing again drawing a sellout crowd. Loken estimated about 340 in attendance at the conference center Friday.

The two Dancing for Dreams events have now brought in about $98,000 for LifeQuest. LifeQuest is an organization that aims to improve the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities by way of helping them obtain jobs and perform various roles around the community. Money raised from Friday’s gathering will go toward supporting LifeQuest’s Create 401.

Create 401 is a creative space in downtown Mitchell providing an area where community members can join LifeQuest residents in various activities. It is located at 401 N. Main St. and hosts a variety of creative activities and outlets, such as painting classes.

Loken, who also praised the steering committee and volunteers for their work at the Friday evening fundraiser, said the 401 Create program continues to be a great service to both LifeQuest residents and the public volunteers who step in to work with them. While it has only been open for a relatively short time, the full potential of the program is still being determined.

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“(The funds) are earmarked for 401 Create, the idea of which is connecting people from the community with people from LifeQuest and doing creative projects together,” Loken said. “The great thing about it is that it’s just getting started and we don’t know whether or not we’ve hit a ceiling there or not, because we get new people in all the time and have new ideas in there all the time. Really the sky's the limit right now.”

Fundraising efforts for LifeQuest are ongoing. For those wishing to donate to the organization, a donor has established a matching funds program that will match all increased donations from current donors as well as any new donations from new donors through April 15.

That’s a great way to support LifeQuest, Loken said, but he also said that based on the successful run Friday night, he expects Dancing for Dreams to be back again next year, and for subsequent years to come.

“We do (hope to bring it back on a yearly basis). One of the biggest obstacles we have would be dancers, but we already have a couple of people interested because they came and talked to us during the event and said that they would be ready to go next year,” Loken said.

It appears the community is ready to step in and continue their support by hitting the dance floor again next year.

“And we will be, too. This time, next year,” Loken said.

Readers seeking more information about donating to LifeQuest can visit lifequestsd.com or reach out to Loken at 605-990-7835.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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