March 9, 2024

Swinging with the Stars is the Central Okanagan Hospice Association’s signature fundraiser which has raised over $3.5 million in the last 15 years.

This year, we are needing our community to help us achieve a record-breaking year and raising $600,000 to meet the evolving demands. Together, we can create a community where no one has to die or grief alone. Every contribution will have a significant impact in the Central Okanagan, and you can be a part of making a difference.

About the Gala

Swinging with the Stars is based on the popular television show “Dancing with the Stars,” where professional dance instructors from Kelowna are paired with local celebrities. During a six-month period leading up to the gala, local celebrities volunteer their valuable time alongside their professional instructors to prepare for their dance routine. The night at the gala is all about dancing, trophies, fundraising, and whole lot of fun!

Swinging with the Stars is one of the Okanagan’s biggest and hottest nights of the year. All in support of COHA.

Meet our Celebrity Dancers

Individual / Couples Category

Team Love Birds

Adam, a local business owner from Red Bird Brewing, is eager to embrace new challenges and connect with inspiring individuals through “Swinging with the Stars.” Kaila, a Kelowna-based registered nurse for nine years, is dedicated to excellent patient care and community well-being, fueled by their love for BC’s outdoors. They cannot wait to showcase their dance moves in support of COHA.

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Country Concert Fundraiser feat. James Barker Band

Team Martin

April is the visionary Founder of the PURKIDS Foundation, dedicated to supporting families in need. Lane, Co-Founder of Modern PURAIR, leads Canada’s top indoor air quality franchise. Together, they are committed to nurturing compassionate individuals and empowering successful businesses, all while raising their family in Kelowna. They look forward to engaging with the community to raise money for an amazing cause!

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Team Martin Online Auction

Team Rhythm Rebel

Heidi, a mother of two daughters, draws inspiration from her family’s love and joy. Her passion for travel, scuba diving, and dance has led her to fully embrace life’s adventures. Heidi’s journey took an unexpected turn after back surgery left her facing physical challenges. Her participation in “Swinging with the Stars” as a dancer is a milestone in their recovery journey and a testament to her commitment to supporting organizations like COHA, which provide vital assistance during challenging times. Heidi believes in giving back to create a thriving society through meaningful contributions and nurturing relationships.

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Group Category

Team House of Paynter

House of Paynter is a close-knit team of cousins and neighbors, passionate about the Okanagan. They are dedicated to learning dance skills and raising vital funds for COHA, a lifeline for the community. Kelowna, brace yourselves for some sweet moves on the dance floor!

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Team Pretty Baddies

Team Pretty Baddies, led by James, a dedicated hospitality professional and enthusiast at heart. In his latest venture with Unconventional Hospitality Group, Pretty Not Bad, they celebrate authenticity by providing a safe space for people to come as they are, fostering awareness of mental health, and raising funds for the community. Joining him on the dance floor are Tara and Brittany, with the potential for a cameo or two, forming Team Pretty Baddies. They are honored and eager to dance and fundraise for COHA, expressing their desire to have fun and put on a winning performance!

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Team Pretty Baddies Fundraising Dinner

Team Pretty Baddies Charity Event

Team RBC Dolla Divas

The Dolla Divas team is comprised of RBC Royal Bank employees who are enthusiastic about taking on the challenge of dancing in front of an audience. They are excited to support COHA’s fantastic organization and its important mission. Having volunteered before and being inspired by the event’s purpose and dedication, they feel privileged to contribute to fundraising for this essential organization.

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Team RBC Dolla Divas Fundraising Raffle

Meet our Professional Instructors

Jennifer Large

Lucy Mitchell

Mackenzie Denis

Madison Koch

Warren Eaton

Olivia Solano

Jennifer Large

Jennifer was born and raised in Kelowna BC. She grew up dancing at the Canadian School of Ballet, learning ballet, tap, jazz and musical theatre and performing annually in their Christmas presentation of the Nutcracker. She moved to Vancouver to attend massage therapy school, and continued her dance education at the harbour centre with hip hop classes, belly dancing and salsa. She moved back to Kelowna after starting a family and became heavily involved in the dance community teaching at the Canadian school of ballet, in schools , and through Parkinson Rec. She’s performed with various groups at fundraisers and events, music festivals, and in music videos.

Jennifer supports COHA as she herself had to use their recourses after losing her daughter Lola. COHA provided the grief support she needed to survive such a devastating loss and so she gratefully volunteers with Swinging with the Stars annually.

This year, Jennifer is instructing Team Love Birds.

Lucy Mitchell

Lucy Mitchell has 30+ years of performance experience in the arts, with over 20 of those years as a choreographer, director/producer and instructor. Lucy graduated with a BA Hons degree in dance and theatre performance from the renowned Bird College – Conservatoire for Dance & Musical Theatre, London, England. After graduating, Lucy has gone on to grow both her performing and teaching resume extensively throughout North America, whilst using the beautiful Okanagan as her homebase. Her resume boasts Live Theatre, Cruise Ships, Music Videos, Music Festivals, Multi-million Dollar Fundraisers, Arts Camps, TV and Film and more. She has been an integral part of growing the arts community here in Kelowna while creating both training & performance opportunities for her students.

She is thrilled to be back again as an instructor, sharing both her love and passion for the arts and our community. Lucy’s own mother spent her final days in hospice in the UK, so she understands first hand how important these services are.

This year, Lucy is instructing Team Dolla Divas.

Mackenzie Denis

Mackenzie began dancing at the age of 3 training in RAD ballet, Tap, Jazz and Contemporary. Throughout her years in competitive dance, she performed numerous roles in The Nutcracker including Clara, was invited to dance alongside professional dancers in Ballet Kelowna’s Canadiana Suite and travelled to San Diego to participate in Break the Floor’s Dancer Palooza where she took classes from choreographers such as Travis Wall, Teddy Forance, Mark Meismer and various others. After graduation, Mackenzie continued to pursue her passion by achieving her Royal Academy of Dance Certificate in Ballet Studies, Progressing Ballet Technique Certification and most recently her Acrobatic Arts Teacher Certification. She has been a faculty member at The Canadian School of Ballet since 2018 teaching ballet, tap, jazz and acro.

Mackenzie has performed at the Swinging with the Stars event in the past as a guest and is very excited to take part in it this year as an instructor!

This year, Mackenzie is instructing Team Martin.

Madison Koch

Madison has had 15 years of dance training in ballet, tap, contemporary and hip-hop. She has competed throughout Canada and the United States, winning multiple awards. Madison still loves to be involved in the dance community in any way possible from dancing with her friends, working for dance competitions to participating in Swinging with the Stars. She is very involved within the community as a volunteer for the Community Fridge, Elderdog and works on community outreach and connections within her workplaces. This is her 4th year participating in Swinging with the Stars and she is very happy to be back working with COHA.

This year, Madi is instructing Team House of Paynter.

Warren Eaton

Professional Ballroom and Latin dance teacher, performer and choreographer for over 30 years. Licentiate member of the International Dance Teachers Association(IDTA) and the Canadian Dancesport Federation(CDF). He is the proud owner of Latinesque Ballroom and Latin Dance Co. here in the Okanagan since 2004. Warren has competed both professionally, as well as with his students, and has taught in many different counties around the world(USA, England, China). He has been involved with Swinging With The Stars on 5 different occasions as both a teacher/choreographer, performer and most recently a judge.

This year, Warren is instructing Team Rhythm Rebel.

Olivia Solano

Olivia received her dance training with the Canadian School of Ballet in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary, and Musical Theatre. During her time there, she performed with Company B, competed numerous solo and group routines, and participated in 11 Nutcracker shows. Some of her dance accomplishments include performing the role of Clara in the Nutcracker and completing her RAD Advanced II Ballet Exam with Distinction. After graduating High School, Olivia took a break from dance and went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Psychology at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus. This is currently the final semester of her degree! Outside of her studies, she is also a Research Intern in the Clinical Trials Unit at BC Cancer – Kelowna, she is the President of the Lady of the Lake Leadership Excellence Program Society, and she teaches adult dance classes.

Olivia’s parents have competed in Swinging with the Stars in previous years, and she is excited to now participate in the event as an instructor.

This year, Olivia is instructing Team Pretty Baddies.

Meet our Judges

Matt August

Laura Draycott

Marc Dermott

Carien Rennie

Tori Wesszer

Matt August

Matt has become a prominent figure as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, distinguished for his remarkable contributions to both his business and charitable endeavors. As the visionary force behind August Luxury Motorcars, a globally renowned luxury vehicle business, Matt’s ventures have left an indelible mark on the industry.

Not only a shrewd entrepreneur, Matt’s big heart shines through his philanthropic efforts, having raised over 3.3 million dollars for causes close to his heart, including COHA, JoeAnna’s House, Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon, and many more through the August Family Foundation which was established in 2016.

Matt is a catalyst for change and loves adventure. He took the stage in 2020 to dance in “Swinging with the Stars” captivating the audience with his dance moves and taking home two trophies for most monies raised and audience choice. This year, he takes on a new role at the judges’ seat, further emphasizing his dedication and leaving a lasting legacy of impact and inspiration.

Laura Draycott

Laura is a chiropractor, optician, community volunteer and founder of a local optical store. She is also 2024 Ms Senior World.

Retired, but not tired, she spends her time as a busy pageant queen representing and encouraging women over 50 to Keep saying YES…yes to new experiences & opportunities, and YES to active-healthy aging. She loves to ski and currently teaches with the Powderhounds adaptive ski program.

In her youth Laura was also a CFL cheerleader, gymnast and model. So she’s going to be judging your moves and cheering on all of the dancers from the sidelines.

Her husband, Stephen, and Laura danced in swinging with the stars 2018 and win the peoples choice award.

Marc Dermott

Marc has worked in the entertainment industry all his life, from TV to stage performances, plus creating and directing over 20 stage production shows in the UK. Now living in Canada over the past 6 years, Marc is proud to be your afternoon show host with 99.9 Virgin Radio here in the Okanagan, and is the co-owner of Hype Dance in Kelowna. “Nothing is better than dance, throwing some crazy shapes and shaking what your momma gave ya!

Carien Rennie

Carien Rennie, the Account Manager at Boulevard Magazine Okanagan/Vancouver, is an experienced Sales Manager with a proven track record in the Pharmaceutical, Aesthetic, and Publishing industries. With top skills in sales, CRM, strategic planning, time management, and entrepreneurship, and has consistently excels in creating meaningful connections with both peers and customers.

More importantly, Carien is a mom, a fiercely loyal friend, and a woman who leads with her heart. Described as a true warrior, she possesses wisdom beyond her years. Her love for the community is palpable, and she never turns her back on those in need. Compassionate, kind, and always in the service of others, Carien is a star that shines bright, leaving a trail of warmth and support in her wake.

In essence, Carien Rennie is not only a seasoned Sales Manager but also a community leader who exemplifies the qualities of compassion, authenticity, and genuine care. Her impactful presence extends far beyond the professional realm, making her a true asset to both her workplace and the community she serves.

To know her is to love her.

Tori Wesszer

Tori Wesszer is Registered Dietitian, tech startup founder, food and lifestyle blogger, and cookbook co-author of “Fraiche Food, Full Hearts” and the newly released “Fraiche Food, Fuller Hearts” with cousin Jillian Harris. When she’s not cooking up a storm, you will likely find her at home sipping Okanagan wine with her husband Charles and hanging out with her two boys in her hometown Kelowna.

Her mission is simple: to inspire you and your loved ones to live healthier, happier, and more beautiful lives starting in the heart of the home – the kitchen. After all, food is love.

Tori is a true “people person,” fostering connections within her community through the Fraîche Table Meal Plan—a lifeline for busy people elevating home cooking. Whether through her engaging Instagram presence or the immersive world of her food and lifestyle blog, fraicheliving.com, Tori provides a much-needed escape for others, akin to flipping through the pages of a favourite magazine.

Tori’s here to help make life a little more beautiful, and A LOT more delicious!

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