Six local celebrities and their professional partners danced their hearts out to benefit the teachers and students of Lake County Schools at the 17th Annual Stepping Out for Education, held July 28th and 29th at the Venetian Center in Leesburg. The signature event for the Education Foundation of Lake County raised over $80,000 for Lake County Schools new Teacher Mentorship programs and the state will match the total 100%.
Each team dazzled the audience and judges with the Golden Age of Hollywood theme. The celebrities included:
- Lindsey Blaise, President & CEO of Citizens First Bank, and her professional dance partner Eddie Rivera
- Tyler Brandeburg, Brown & Brown Insurance and Lake County Schools, and his professional dance partner Lora Constantini
- Erin Craig, President of Florida Operators and Controls, and her professional dance partner Jose “Ricky” Colon
- Willie Hawkins, Commissioner for the City of Eustis, and his professional dance partner Jailene Espinosa
- Amanda Nethero, Owner of New Heights Communication, and her professional dance partner Johnny Boulware.
- Al Minner, City Manager of the City of Leesburg, and his professional dance partner Hannah Pickard.
A panel of professional judges that included Anastassia Abramenko, Marta Lyszkowicz and Primo Garcia judged the teams’ two performances each night and combined the scores to award the top Male and Female Performer. The audience participated in voting for the audience choice performer each night with assistance from the Lake County Supervisor of Elections staff.
Friday night’s Top Female Performer was Lindsey Blaise.
Friday night’s Top Male Performer was Willie Hawkins.
Friday night’s Audience Choice winner was Lindsey Blaise.
Saturday night’s Top Female Performer was Lindsey Blaise.
Saturday night’s Top Male Performer was Al Minner.
Saturday night’s Audience Choice winner was Lindsey Blaise.
The Overall Mirror Ball Winner was Lindsey Blaise of Citizens First Bank, pictured below.
This year the celebrity dancers were challenged with a new award which allowed those unable to attend to cast their vote. Leading up to the winner’s announcement, the Education Foundation posted on their social media accounts the Leading Influencer to help encourage more votes. Votes could be purchased ahead of time for $5 a vote. The 2023 Influencer Award winner was Lindsey Blaise, with an honorable mention to Erin Craig for the most individual contributions.
The event was emceed by the two leading men, and previous Stepping Out alums, Dr. Wade Winker and Marc Robertz-Schwartz. Both gentlemen work tirelessly to help make this event a success.
A special thank you to the sponsors of Stepping Out for Education which included: Akers Media, Electric Services Inc., Kurt’s A/C and Heat, Citizens First Bank, Phillips Buick GMC, Dance It Studio, Phillips Toyota, Addition Financial, Lake County Sheriff’s Office Charities, Bowen & Schroth, Mathias Foodservice, Insight Credit Union, Eustis Lakeside Dental, United Southern Bank, Duke Energy, Ford Press, Citizens First Bank, Renew Day Spa, Collier & Hackler Financial Solutions, Wharton-Smith Construction, New Heights Communication, GSB Construction & Development Inc., Nobles Marine, Kirk Mussleman Dave Lowe Realty Inc., Florida Operators and Controls, Skanska, AdventHealth Waterman, Brown & Brown Insurance, City of Leesburg, Fairwinds Credit Union, Lake-Sumter State College Foundation, McLin Burnsed, The Waterfront Inn, and Dancer’s Boutique.