Who are the stars for Dancing with the Pagosa Stars?


    By Toni Sherwood
    Seeds of Learning

    Who are these stars?

    You’ve seen them in line at the grocery store or strolling along the Riverwalk, but you have yet to see them dance.

    This year’s Dancing with the Pagosa Stars (DWTPS) will see six unassuming locals cast into the spotlight. Whatever happens on that stage will go down in infamy — and raise funds for Seeds of Learning.

    So, why would these people take time from their busy lives to risk dancing like Elaine on Seinfeld?

    “When they asked me to dance, I wasn’t sure,” Tim Sullivan admitted, “but then they told me what it was for.”

    Not many people know that Sullivan has a degree in education and spent time as a substitute teacher in Los Angeles in order to pay the rent between acting gigs. He taught mostly grade school and middle school kids; by then, the stark difference in those with quality preschool education and those without was evident.

    “The thing about education in those early years,” Sullivan explained, “is that if a kid misses out, you can’t make it up.”

    Terri Frahm knows the importance of providing opportunities for kids to succeed. 

    “Structured education is enriching,” Frahm said, “And it builds self-esteem.”

    Frahm is no stranger to the DWTPS family. In past years, she has served on the decorating committee and co-chaired the drinks committee. 

    “It’s amazing all we had to do, it took six months to get everything ready,” Frahm recalled. Two years ago, she went undercover as star Nikki Smith’s unofficial campaign manager, which included a martini-infused dance rehearsal at her home.

    Len Liszewski recalls the day board president Lisa Peters suggested he join DWTPS to support education for kids aged 2 and a half to 5.

    “As Lisa was talking, my mind went back to myself at that age. I remember being in a finger painting class in Chicago and a teacher showing me the best way to get the paint off my hands,” Liszewski recalled fondly. “I had a great childhood; how can I not be involved to help these kids have the same?”

    Derek Pepin is a recent transplant to Pagosa, yet he immediately jumped on board with DWTPS. Is he secretly the next John Travolta? Does he have a master plan to win?

    “Getting involved has made me feel like I’m part of the community,” Pepin said. “So many people here give back, it’s inspiring.”

    When Peters approached him, Pepin decided to throw caution to the wind. “It’s definitely out of my wheelhouse, but it sounded like so much fun.”

    Heather Simpson’s reasons for joining this year’s troupe are close to home. Her daughter, now 11 years old, attended an early education center in Denver. 

    “I remember her dad balked at the cost,” Simpson recalled, “but I said I’d eat ramen every day for her to go there.”

    By grade school, her daughter was ahead of the game education wise, especially compared to kids whose parents opted not to do early child education. 

    “It made her the incredible person she is today,” Simpson said.

    As a mom to seven, Betsy Burnett is no stranger to early child education. 

    “I have great admiration for all that’s been accomplished through Seeds,” Burnett said. “It’s a prime launching pad for our future leaders. Plus— I love to dance!”

    Are you interested in getting involved behind the scenes? We would love to meet you. Connect with us at: https://growingseeds.org/volunteer/.