Stars support Hope Lodge through dance


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While die-hard Hawkeye fans are recovering from Saturday’s football match against Northwestern, 12 couples will cha-cha, swing, and waltz for charity.

Local community leaders and celebrities are teaming up with eastern Iowa ballroom dancers to raise funds for the Russell and Ann Gerdin American Cancer Society Hope Lodge.

The entertainment will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Coralville Marriott, 300 E. Ninth St. The evening’s events include a live auction, champagne reception, dancing, and music from the Rod Pierson Big Band featuring Craig Boche.

The Gerdin American Hope Lodge, 750 Hawkins Drive, provides a free, home-like environment for out-of-town cancer patients and their families to stay while receiving care at any of the Iowa City hospitals. The facility contains 28 rooms and four kitchens.

Last year’s gala raised more than $35,000 for the Hope Lodge. Karen Farris, a UI pharmacy professor and chairwoman of the Hope Lodge gala volunteer committee, hopes that the event can bring in even more money this year.

“It is critical that we’re able to generate support so that we can continue and maintain it so people can stay for free,” Farris said. Approximately 400 patients use the facility each year. It costs the lodge about $50 per night for one person.

Some of the local celebrity volunteers participating in this year’s gala include Iowa City School District Superintendent Lane Plugge, Fire Marshal John Grier, and John Buatti, a UI Hospitals and Clinics oncologist.

Buatti attended the gala last year and knew that he wanted to participate in future events. Besides his love of social dancing, the doctor said, he is committed to the cancer patients, and raising funds to aid them is important to him. The Hope Lodge, he said, is an important resource for patients that come to Iowa City for treatment at the state’s only comprehensive cancer center for both adults and children.

“People come from many miles away and often need to have daily treatments where they are going to be in Iowa City for a long period of time,” he said. “When they’re in that kind of a situation, the availability of a place to stay for free that’s homelike and supportive makes it accessible to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have their advanced care achieved.”

Buatti has spent two to three hours each week for the past five weeks commuting to and from Cedar Rapids to practice for the event.

“That was the hardest part,” he said. “I have four boys who need to get picked up and dropped off, and finding a time that would work for everybody was tough.”

Buatti has received instruction from his dance partner, Joy Mote, who owns Mote Dance Studio in Delhi, Iowa, with husband Jim Mote. Catherine Champion, the owner of Champion’s and Cheap and Chic boutiques in downtown Iowa City, is Jim Mote’s dance partner.

Ultimately, after squeezing tango rehearsal into his tightly packed schedule, Buatti said, he would participate again in the event “in a heartbeat.”

While the dancers have spent hours practicing and the volunteer committee has been preparing for the gala, Farris said, the focus of the night is the real stars — the guests taking shelter in the Hope Lodge.

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