SOFE group

Our 2017 Stepping Out for Education special “Couples Edition” was spectacular! The celebrity couples not only wowed those in attendance with their individual dance, they first performed a special group number to start the competition, then were introduced individually to show a little bit of their personalities before changing into their costumes to perform for the judges.

Julie Townsend, from the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority (LDDA), and her husband Billy, from PwC and a Polk County School Board Member, performed a tango.

Patrick Zhang and Marie Wilmot, colleagues from Florida Polytechnic University / FIPR Institute, did a combination of the Cha Cha, Jazz and Hip Hop.

Christina Ingrassia, Girl about Downtown, and Shane Mahoney, Lugos Travel entertained guests with a Cha Cha, Rumba and Hop Hop combo. They placed second in the competition.

Ryan Russell, Publix Supermarkets and Erin Killebrew, Citrus Connection, performed a Salsa with a flavor of Bachata.

Kathryn Hill, ProMed Healthcare Services and Gold’s Gym and Mike Hill, Jeld-Wen, came out as the famous Sandy and Danny from Grease and performed a Swing. They came in third in the competition and raised the second most amount of money, just over $12,400!

Katie and Donovan Tinsley, both of Tinsley Creative, did a Rumba / Hustle combination. They won the People’s Choice Award by raising the most money of the seven couples, over $16,600! One of the highest amounts ever raised in that portion of the competition.

Lois Horn-Diaz, 2017 Polk County Teacher of the Year from R. Bruce Wagner Elementary and Dan Chesnicka, Theatre Winter Haven, let the crowd think they were performing just a Waltz and then threw everything but the kitchen sink in to finish. They received not only the Audience Favorite Award voted on by those in attendance, but also first place in the competition by the judges.

Gene and Debbie Kallenborn owners of Dance Connection in Lakeland and pro Deonta Blake served as instructors for the couples this year.

Thank you to the celebrity dancers, our event sponsors and everyone who had a part in making Stepping Out for Education a success! A gross total of just over $68,000 was raised to help support programs and services of the PEF!

1st place

First place and Audience Favorite, Lois Horn-Diaz and Dan Chesnicka

2nd place

Second place Christina Ingrassia and Shane Mahoney

3rd place

Third place Kathryn and Mike Hill

PC award

People's Choice Award, having raised over $16,000, Katie and Donovan Tinsley


SOFE group

Dancers once again wowed the audience with their stunning performances! Celebrity Yadira Holmes and her partner Colin Claypool performed the Merengue and Argentine Tango. Celebrity James Keene and his partner Mona Hofmann danced the Salsa and a Waltz. Celebrity Jennie Walker and her partner Fred Oswald performed the Cha Cha and a Tango. Celebrity Rex Harris and his partner Doerte Blake performed a Calypso and a Slow Waltz/Viennese Waltz. Celebrity Nelson Zenteno and his partner Debbie Kallenborn danced a Bachata and Foxtrot. And finishing the lineup were Celebrity Kim Short and her partner Gene Kallenborn who performed a Mambo and Country Waltz.

The following awards were decided by judges at the event:
First Place – Kim Short
Second Place – James Keene
Third Place – Yadira Holmes

The audience decided on the award below:
Audience Favorite – Kim Short

The dancer raising the most money in $1 votes won the award below:
People’s Choice – Jennie Walker having raised $36,348!

Together all the dancers raised over $60,000 in People’s Choice Votes and a gross total of $101,000 was raised by the event! Thank you to the dancers that worked so very hard and to the event sponsors:
Platinum: Citizens Bank & Trust; Gold: Charter Communications; Silver: Censtate Contractors, Duke Energy, Jarrett-Gordon Ford, Mark & Patty Bostick; Mosaic; Polk State College; Publix Super Markets Charities; Tampa Electric / Peoples Gas; Bronze: ACT Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc. / Lakeland Linder Airport; BB&T; Badcock Home Furniture & More; Heritage Group at Morgan Stanley; Maxcy Foundation, Inc.; MIDFLORIDA Credit Union; Southern Homes; State Farm and Tracy Mouncey & Associates.

2015 SOFE winners

Emily Spath Clark, Spath Jewelers, Bartow, took home the overall champion trophy in the competition, with her professional partner Gene Kallenborn. They performed a Waltz and the Salsa. Elizabeth Waraksa, High Maintenance, Inc., and her professional partner, Ben Castellano, took second place, performing the Charleston and the Foxtrot. Craig Clevenger, a teacher at Winter Haven High School came in third place and was also the Audience Favorite, voted on by those in attendance.  He and his partner, Mona Hofmann performed a Waltz and a Salsa Medley. Performing the Tango and the Salsa, were Stephanie Colon, of Sunshine Bank, with her partner, Ben Castellano.  Matt Mucci, of AT&T paired up with Debbie Kallenborn, for a Foxtrot and the Merengue.

Matt Mucci was also The People’s Choice Award Winner, raising $8,776. The People’s Choice voting alone raised $28,328 for the Polk Education Foundation!

Participating at the Platinum Level was sponsor, Bright House Networks. 
Silver Sponsors:  Badcock Home Furniture & More, Duke Energy, the Ledger Media Group, Mark & Patti Bostick, Mondello Medical Spa, Polk State College, Publix Super Markets Charities, Spath Jewelers and Tampa Electric Company/Peoples Gas.  Bronze Sponsors included: Centennial Bank, Citizens Bank & Trust, Coca Cola Beverages of Florida, the Family of Elizabeth Waraksa, The Heritage Group-Morgan Stanley, Lakeland, Maxcy Foundation, Inc., MIDFLORIDA Credit Union, Mosaic, Senator Kelli Stargel, State Farm Insurance and Tracy Mouncey and Associates.

SOFE group


Christie Bassett, Polk County and Florida’s Teacher of the Year 2013-14, took home the overall champion trophy in the competition with her professional partner Bill Bryant. They performed the Mambo and the Foxtrot. Gene Conrad, of the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, and his professional partner, Doerte Hartwig, took second place. They performed the Hustle and the Slow Foxtrot. Cindy Rodriguez and Donna Sheehan tied for third. Cindy, of A-C-T Environmental and Infrastructure Inc. and professional dance partner, Ben Castellano, performed the Swing and the Foxtrot.  Donna, who works with the City of Winter Haven and her professional partner, Gene Kallenborn, performed a Cha Cha and the Foxtrot.   Ralph Schofield, an attorney at Clark, Campbell, Lancaster and Munson P.A. and his professional partner Stephanie Castellano, performed the Jive and the Argentine Tango.  Performing the Swing and Argentine Tango was Chip Tucker, of Tucker Paving Inc. and his professional partner, Debbie Kallenborn.  An encore performance by Carol Mondello, the overall winner from the 2013 competition, and her professional partner, Ben Castellano, was enjoyed by the audience.

The People’s Choice Award was presented to Chip Tucker, who raised $10,116. Donna Sheehan was also recognized that night for being a close second by raising an outstanding $10,022.  The People’s Choice voting alone raised $32,440 for the Polk Education Foundation. The Audience Favorite award was voted on by guests at the event after seeing the two rounds of performances. The Audience Favorite award was presented to Chip Tucker.

The estimated $56,000 in net proceeds raised this will go to support three PEF programs: scholarships, AmeriCorps Polk Reads and the PEF’s Free Teacher Market.

Participating at the Platinum Level was sponsor Bright House Networks.  Gold Sponsors were Tucker Paving, Inc. and Mondello Medical Spa. Silver Sponsors:  A-C-T Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc., Amherst Consulting, Applied Aquatic Management, Badcock Furniture & More, the Chip Tucker Fan Club, the Christie Bassett Fan Club, Duke Energy, Jerue, Ledger Media Group, Mark & Patti Bostick, Polk State College, Tampa Electric Company and Tommy & Lynn Oakley.  Bronze Sponsors included: Charlie & Cindy Henry, Citizens Bank & Trust, Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson P.A., Drummond Company, The Heritage Group at Morgan Stanley, MIDFLORIDA Credit Union, Mosaic, Old Castle Materials, Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc., Southern Homes, State Farm, SunTrust  Foundation and Tracy Mouncey & Associates. Thank you all!

Gene Christe

Chip 2nd

Description: Stepping Out dancers

Click here to view the Photo Gallery from the 2013

The fourth annual Stepping Out for Education event was held on Friday, September 27, at The Lakeland Center. The sold out crowd of 400 guests watched as local “celebrity” dancers, leaders in the Polk County community, strutted their stuff ballroom-style. For the last two months the dancers had been taking professional dance lessons from Lakeland Ballroom and then performed at the event with their professional dance partner. All of the elements of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars were there - the professional judges who each gave technical remarks and a numbered score, the lifts of the female dancers in the air, the beautiful gowns and sometimes even props.

Carol Mondello, Mondello Medical Spa, took home the overall champion trophy in the competition with her professional partner Ben Castellano. They performed the Jive and the Waltz. Clay McKown, Florida Traditions Bank, and his professional partner Stephanie Castellano, took second place. They performed the Paso Doble and the Foxtrot. Sarah Case, Gadd Case and Associates, placed third. She and professional dance partner, Gene Kallenborn, performed a Rumba-Hustle routine and the Viennese Waltz. Clint Edwards, Edwards Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, partnered with professional Dorte Blake. They performed a Free Style Rumba routine and an Interpretive Tango. Karen Phillips of Eye Express in Winter Haven, performed the Swing and the Tango with her partner, Hector Quiles. Wayne Raath of the Lone Palm Golf Club partnered with Debbie Kallenborn for a Cha-Cha and a Tango with a Twist. Also performing at the competition were Jan Hyman, the top overall winner in 2012, and her professional partner, Ben Castellano. They performed a Latin Medley.

The People’s Choice Award was presented to Carol Mondello who raised $12,454. Karen Phillips was also recognized that night for being a close second by raising an outstanding $10,878! The People’s Choice voting raised $29,513 for the Polk Education Foundation. The Audience Favorite award was voted on by guests at the event after seeing the two rounds of performances. The Audience Favorite award was presented to Clint Edwards.

Copeland said the $56,000 in net proceeds raised this year will go to support three PEF programs: scholarships, AmeriCorps Polk Reads and the PEF’s Free Teacher Market.
Participating at the Platinum Level were sponsors Bright House Networks and
Mondello Medical Spa.
Silver Sponsors: Dr. & Mrs. David Misch, Eye Express, Mark & Patti Bostick, Polk State College, SunTrust Foundation, Tampa Electric Company, The Ledger and Tommy & Lynn Oakley.
Bronze Sponsors included: Charlie & Cindy Henry, Citizens Bank & Trust, Duke Energy, Tom Edwards Chrylsler Dodge Jeep Ram, MIDFLORIDA Credit Union, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Mosaic, Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc., and Tracy Mouncey & Associates.
Thank you all!

SOFE Group

The third annual Stepping Out for Education event was held on Friday, September 21, at The Lakeland Center. Over 300 guests watched as local “celebrity” dancers, leaders in the Polk County community, strutted their stuff ballroom-style. For the last ten weeks the dancers had been taking professional dance lessons from Lakeland Ballroom and then performed at the event with their professional dance partner. All of the elements of Dancing with the Stars were there - the professional judges who each gave technical remarks and a numbered score, the lifts of the female dancers in the air, the beautiful gowns and sometimes even props.

  • Jan


    Jan Hyman, a CPA and Polk Education Foundation board member, took home the overall champion trophy in the competition with her professional partner Ben Castellano. They performed the Fox Trot and the Paso Doble.

  • Gary


    Gary Boyer from Boyer Building Corporation and his professional partner Debbie Kallenborn took second place. They performed the Quickstep and a Hustle/Hip Hop routine.

  • Ashley


    Ashley Bell, former marketing analyst for Workforce Education at the Polk County School District, placed third. She and professional dance partner, Ben Castellano, performed the Viennese Waltz and the Rhumba.

  • Lauren
    Lauren Schwenk, of OakleyRhinehart Cassidy, and professional dance partner Gene Kallenborn, performed the Argentine Tango and the Swing.

  • Ken
    Ken Suarez, from FOX Channel 13, and partner Deb Boatright, danced the Peabody / Charleston and Hustle/Samba.

  • Jerome
    Jerome Ferson, with the Ledger Media Group, performed the Waltz and Cha Cha with his professional dance partner Doerta Blake.

  • Dave and Deb

    Also performing at the competition were Dr. Dave Misch, the top overall winner in 2011, and his wife Deborah. They opted to perform the encore as a couple when Dr. Misch’s professional partner from last year was due to have a baby at competition time this year.

Two other awards were given out during the competition. The People’s Choice Award was presented to the dancer who raised the most $1 votes. The winner was Gary Boyer who raised almost $8,000! The People’s Choice voting raised $30,000 for the Polk Education Foundation. The final award given was the Audience Favorite. Guests at the event voted after seeing the two rounds of performances. The Audience Favorite award was presented to Lauren Schwenk.

Click here for the full photo gallery.

The $53,000 in net proceeds raised this year will go to support three PEF programs: scholarships, AmeriCorps Polk Reads and the PEF’s Free Teacher Market. Bright House Networks, the event’s Premiere Sponsor, also earned naming rights to the PEF’s Free Teacher Market for the 2012-13 school year through their top level of support. Other sponsors of the event included Silver Sponsors: Boyer Building Corporation, Dr. & Mrs. David Misch, Lynn & Tommy Oakley, Polk State College, SunTrust Bank, Tampa Electric Company, and the PCSB Workforce Education Department. Bronze Sponsors were: Badcock Home Furniture & More, CenterState Bank, Charlie & Cindy Henry, Citizens Bank & Trust, MIDFLORIDA Credit Union, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Lakeland, Mosaic, Oakley Rhinehart Cassidy, Progress Energy, Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc., and Tracy Mouncey & Associates. Thank you to all! Our appreciation also goes to Lakeland Ballroom and their professional dancers, they are great to work with!

The 2nd Annual event grossed $70,000 to support the Polk Education Foundation. Our move to the Lakeland Center allowed us to entertain a larger crowd and guests were wowed by the performances.  Dr. David Misch from the Center for Retina and Macular Disease took home the overall champion trophy in the competition with his professional partner Stephanie Allain.  They performed the Quickstep and the Rumba.  Deric Feacher from the City of Winter Haven and his professional partner Debbie Kallenborn took First Place in the Male Division.  They performed the Waltz and a Salsa/Hip Hop routine.  Katie Gernert from Clark, Nikdel & Powell placed first in the Women’s Division.  She and professional dance partner, Ben Castellano, performed the Tango and the Cha-Cha. Colleen Burton, Executive Director of Polk Vision and professional dance partner Gene Kallenborn performed the Tango and a Country Melody.  Robert Loftin from BB&T Bank and partner Tatyana Frost danced the Tango and Rumba. Kathryn Koch from Lanier Upshaw performed the Fox Trot and Hustle with her partner, Bill Bryant.  Two other awards were given out during the competition. The People’s Choice Award was offered to the dancer who raised the most $1 votes. The winner was Dr. David Misch who raised $7,492. Kathryn Koch was second with $2,757. The People’s Choice voting raised $15,000 for the Polk Education Foundation. The second award given was the Audience Favorite. Guests at the event voted after seeing the two rounds of performances.  The Audience Favorite award was presented to Katie Gernert.

  • Katie

  • Robert

  • Deric

  • Colleen

  • Dave w prize

  • Kathryn dancing


Click here to view the Stepping Out For Education 2011 Photo Gallery
  • Stepping Out For EducationThe first annual Stepping Out for Education event was held on Friday, June 18, at the Lakeland Yacht and Country Club. Over 250 guests watched as local “celebrity” dancers, leaders in the Polk County community, strutted their stuff ballroom-style, with their professional dance partner. $36,000 gross, was raised at this inaugural event! Jerry Miller from Progress Energy took first place in the competition with his professional partner Vicki Seaton. They performed the Tango and the Swing. Bonnie Parker from Sun Trust Bank and her professional partner Todd Staley took second place.

  • Stepping Out For Education They performed the Tango and the Salsa. Dr. Gail McKinzie, Superintendent of Polk County Schools, placed third. She and professional dance partner, Gene Kallenborn, performed the Quick Step and the Jitterbug. Tracy Porter, Executive Director of Polk State College Foundation and professional dance partner Bill Bryant performed the Waltz and the Cha Cha. Tim Harris and Ariel Trazaskos danced the Tango and Rumba. Ariel, a trained dancer from Lakeland Ballroom, is a 2010 graduate of Lakeland High School and received a scholarship from the Polk Education Foundation this year.


Click here to view the Stepping Out For Education 2010 Photo Gallery