‘Dancing with the Stars’ celeb heads to Birmingham

CARE House presents Cheryl Burke at annual fundraising event

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 9, 2013

BIRMINGHAM — Once again, CARE House of Oakland County will be returning to the Townsend Hotel this year to host its annual Circle of Friends benefit, and they’re bringing along another all-star celebrity speaker to entice guests.

The Circle of Friends benefit, now in its 17th year, is one of two major fundraisers for the nonprofit, which serves as an advocate for abused and neglected children and families in Oakland County. According to CARE House of Oakland County Executive Director Carol Furlong, the funds raised at the event are vital to the group’s operations.

“As an organization, CARE House strives to be a leading resource in the prevention of child abuse and neglect,” she said in a prepared statement. “The annual Circle of Friends benefit brings continued awareness to these issues and allows us the opportunity to bring attention to the needs of children within our communities that are defenseless.”

For years, the luncheon, which will be held in downtown Birmingham Jan. 31, has managed to attract well-known guest speakers from around the country who can personally relate to the CARE House mission. This year, Cheryl Burke of the ABC hit show “Dancing with the Stars” will share her own experience overcoming childhood abuse.

“It’s wonderful to get a speaker that’s very relevant to the services CARE House provides,” said Cathy Weissenborn, president of the board of trustees for CARE House of Oakland County. “This is the start of our fundraising year, and it usually sets us off on a high note for the year. The last three or four (Circle of Friends events) have been wonderfully successful, and I think Cheryl Burke is going to be really great.”

Last year, CARE House featured Utah native Elizabeth Smart, who made headlines as a teen when she was abducted from her Salt Lake City home in the middle of the night by a religious extremist. That fundraiser was a smashing success, due in part to Smart’s appearance, where she recanted her tale of sexual and mental abuse.

Burke, who has twice been voted champion of the ballroom dancing show, released her autobiography, titled “Dancing Lessons: How I Found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor and in Life,” in 2011. Furlong hopes that Burke’s story will inspire guests to continue to support the work of CARE House.

“Cheryl Burke’s strength in telling her story lends a voice to our mission and helps move that mission forward for our organization,” she said in the statement.

Birmingham residents Kappy Trott and  MaryClare Pulte co-chaired the event, and Dr. William Sabbagh of the Straith Clinic sponsored Burke’s appearance. Preview party hosts are Vickie and Tom Celani of Bloomfield Hills. Bloomfield Hills resident Jim Weissenborn of Mackinac Partners will be honored for contributions to the nonprofit.

Registration for the Circle of Friends benefit will begin at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 31. Ticket prices start at $95 and include lunch. Table packages are also available for purchase, as well as admission to the private preview party the night before at $150 per person.

For detailed ticket information, contact CARE House at (248) 332-7173 or visit carehouse.org. The Townsend Hotel is located at 100 Townsend St. in downtown Birmingham.