Orange local, Bree Kelly, experienced the thrill of being a Star this year when she joined 10 close friends to form Steph’s Sass Squad and learn how to dance for Stars of Orange.
STARS events see local celebrities and community leaders paired with professional dance instructors to learn a dance routine, which they perform in front of a judging panel and audience at a gala night.
The Sass Squad trained twice a week for 12 weeks. It was a gruelling schedule, but it all paid off when the team took home the Highest Fundraiser Award for 2019, raising $33,000.
The team had a special reason to put on their dancing shoes – their friend Steph, who is a dance instructor, was diagnosed with brain cancer last year. After responding well to radiation therapy, Steph made a triumphant cameo appearance during the group’s performance on the night.
“It was so nice, it was an amazing experience to have together. We got backstage and we were all emotional, we didn’t want it to end,” Bree said.
For Steph’s father and long-time STARS master of ceremonies Sandro Tranfaglia, the performance was particularly moving.
“To see my daughter’s friends rally around her was absolutely unbelievable,” he said.
For many, it’s hard to imagine STARS without Sandro. In 2015, the well-known community personality competed in and, under Steph’s tutelage, was Judges’ Choice for the first Stars of Orange.
“It was absolutely fantastic – because it was my daughter who was teaching me, I was a diva,” Sandro laughs. “That is something I will cherish for the rest of my life – to be able to get up and dance with my daughter.”
When the time came to fundraise, Sandro, who brought some disco fever to the event by dancing to the Bee Gees’s You Should Be Dancing, was overwhelmed by the support he received.
“That first night, I put the call out on Facebook and raised $600. I was just so overwhelmed with the generosity of people,” he said. “It became really overwhelming the amount of people that wanted to support me.”
Since then, an often be-sequined and always enthusiastic Sandro has been a judge on Stars of Bathurst and has been the MC for every Stars of Orange.
Bree and Sandro both thanked the local community, sponsors, local businesses and particularly the local dance schools for supporting the event.
Community Relations Coordinator at Cancer Council’s Orange office, Nicola Taylor, said that thanks to the community’s efforts, the 2019 Stars of Orange have danced their way to a fundraising milestone, raising a staggering $250,000 to support people affected by cancer.
“Stars of Orange has become one of the most anticipated fundraisers in the community’s calendar. When the first event launched five years ago, it drew 250 people and raised $35,000. This year, 840 people packed 90 tables, filling the venue to capacity. Across the five years it has been run, the event has raised a total of almost $600,000.
“It’s down to the Stars using their networks and choosing the right Stars that the community are keen to throw their support behind,” she said. “The amount of people that come forward to us is amazing. You’re starting off with a bunch of 100 per cent engaged Stars. Year after year we see Stars nominate new Stars. It just keeps growing!”