Creating a Sense of Community Throughout The Appalachian Highlands

Celebrating Ten Years of Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars

It all began with a chance meeting at a grocery store in 2002. Dr. Mike Adler happened to overhear his acquaintance Kim Kidner talking on the phone about taking ballroom dance lessons. Mike, who had been a regular dancer on “Club Dance” and “Dance Line,” two popular shows on TNN, became interested. When Kim got off the phone he approached her about her dance interests and offered to help her learn or practice.

Fast forward 16 years; Mike and Kim have been married for 11 years and have won many world championships for dancing. On top of the championships, they created one of the most dynamic social event fundraisers in the Tri-Cities area, “Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars.”

Kim graduated ETSU, where she was a cheerleader, with a bachelor’s in finance and real estate. She is now the owner/operator of Kidner and Company Real Estate Appraisers. Mike attended the University of Tennessee on a baseball scholarship where he received a bachelor’s in psychology, a master’s in community counseling, and a doctorate in counseling.

Mike began dancing in 1993. Ten years later, in 2003, Mike started SteppenStone Youth Treatment Services along with his partner Tom Herington. SteppenStone is a residential treatment facility for boys, ages 13-17, with emotional or behavioral issues. Most of the boys at SteppenStone have experienced abuse or neglect and do not have any responsible family members in their life. SteppenStone was created to address the emotional and behavioral issues associated with their past, restore hope and faith for their future, and equip them with all the life skills they will need to be healthy and productive members of society.

In 2009, Mike and Kim were asked to dance as entertainment at the Johnson City Country Club. They thought it would be fun to pull in some local celebrities and teach them to dance in a similar way to the TV show, “Dancing with the Stars,” to benefit SteppenStone. The entire event was planned and completed in 8 weeks. Expectations were small. The show had no staging, lights, or frills.

Mike and Kim were not certain if anyone would be willing to “volunteer” their time to learn to dance. Their hope was to sell 50 tickets and raise enough money for a commercial stove. In the end, over $30,000 was raised in total. The money was used to help a couple with the adoption costs, so they could adopt one of the young boys living at SteppenStone. The event had a profound effect on Mike and Kim because it shed light on many people in the community who were willing to do so much for others.

There was never a plan to do more than one event, but everyone who participated and attended had such a great time that Mike and Kim were encouraged to do it again the following year if they had the support and interest of the community. The second year was a sell out with 220 tickets being sold and $60,000 being raised. At that time, SteppenStone had been asked to double the number of boys they served. The children had two small classrooms within the residential unit, but it was not enough space. As a result of this surprise growth, they needed a stand-alone school building. The money raised from the second year began construction on a two classroom schoolhouse.

The third, fourth, and fifth year of “Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars” were sell out shows as well. In the fifth year, full lighting was introduced and many people had to be turned away, as seating and standing room were sold out. It was clear that a venue change would need to be made to accommodate this very popular event.

In 2014, the sixth year, the event was moved to the Meadowview Grand Ballroom where reserved tables around the dance floor were introduced. By this time, “Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars” had become a huge a production. The ballroom was even too small for this event!

In 2015, the event was moved to the 20,000 square-foot Meadowview Convention Center and broke the $100,000 mark in proceeds. Using the funds earned from years two through seven, the school was completed. In February of 2016, SteppenStone Academy got its new home in a 2,400 square-foot, two-room schoolhouse, paid for by fundraising from “Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars.”

As “Dancing with the Stars” and the proceeds continued to grow within the next two years, SteppenStone was able to purchase a new roof for the facility and many new programs to promote independent living for the boys who resided there. As SteppenStone gears up for the tenth anniversary of the annual event, they are embarking on a total renovation and expansion of their gymnasium and creation of an activities room.

The new gymnasium expansion will house a strength and conditioning room and computer lab. These are very important additions to SteppenStone because many of the boys are behind in their motor skills, when compared to their peers, due to abuse and neglect. The renovated gymnasium and new strength and conditioning room will allow them to improve those skills in a safe environment.

About this year’s 10th Anniversary Event

The tenth annual “Dancing with the Tri-Cities Stars” will be held at the Meadowview Convention Center on Saturday, June 9th from 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.

This year’s event will be the biggest and best yet, as it will bring back many of the “stars” from the past nine seasons to dance in a special dinner exhibition.

The evening will begin with an elegant Tapas-style dinner. The show this year will include some surprises from the kids at SteppenStone that no one will want to miss! Guests will also enjoy one of the largest and best silent auctions, along with a live auction.

The ten local stars have been working hard to learn to ballroom dance over the last few months. Each woman will complete two dances with Mike and each man will complete two dances with Kim. The women wear the actual costumes that have been worn on the TV show, “Dancing with the Stars.”

The stars are competing for several different awards: the famous mirror ball trophies, given to one male and one female who score the highest from the celebrity and professional judges; the “People’s Choice Winner” that is given to the “Star” who gets the biggest response from the crowd; and the most important award of the night, the “Shining Star” Award, which is given to the two contestants who have raised the most money for SteppenStone.


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