The Heartbeat of Haverhill

Good News from A Great City Haverhill, MA

Stars On the Edge of the Atlantic – Emmaus’ Stepping Out with the Valley Stars Event

IMG_7873 Haverhill Emmaus Stepping Out with the Valley Stars 2017 edits

The Heartbeat of Haverhill saw stars last night and it was AWESOME! Emmaus‘ 3rd Annual Stepping Out with the Valley Stars (SOVS) fundraiser goes a long way to entertain a crowd of about 400 and to help achieve their goal “To enhance societal and personal advancement through provision of housing and support services that empower individuals and families to reach their fullest potential.”   SOVS took over the performance space at Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  The ocean may have been dramatic, but all eyes were trained on the substantial talent of the contenders (and myriad raffle and auction prizes).

DSC_7236 Haverhill Emmaus Stepping Out with the Valley Stars 2017 edits

This was year three of a hoot of an event that began as the brainchild of Margot Regan, who must have been reading our mind. THOH has watched every single season of “Dancing with the Stars” (known as DWTS to fans) on which this event is based. But while DWTS contestants have weeks of practice, SOVS participants have 4-6 hours with professional dancers to pick up their routines. And, yet the caliber of the dancing is phenomenal.


Click on photos for bigger images.

This year, several exciting tweaks kept the event fresh under the watchful eye of Margot, her team at Emmaus and the vibrant creative director/dancer/dance instructor and founder of Burju Shoes (worn on the real DWTS, by the way) Burju Perez. There were new instructors, new routines, new contestants (of course) and supporting three year emcee, Ron Carpenito, a special guest host from NBC Boston, Katherine Underwood. Judging the event, the elegant Gretchen Artntz from Emmaus, Mr Six E and former Haverhill City Councilor Mike Hart, the dance expert and featured performer Victor Perez, and the debonair 2017 SOVS winner Ron Trombley (who also performed).

This blog gives THOH the chance to act as a Sunday morning quarterback for those brave, generous, hardworking and talented souls who danced to find homes for the homeless. Dancing the night away in order of appearance were:

Marshall Jesperson partnered with professional Erin Kaya. By day, Marshall is the founder and chairman of the board  of International Cars, Ltd. and an avid supporter of Emmaus. Marshall was volunteered for his role of dancer by his wife. THOH assessment: Mrs. Jesperson must be very proud. Marshall deserves kudos for taking on the first dancing spot. He was absolutely delightful in his ability to tell a story through dance: the reluctant dancer that gets swept into the magic of movement.

Karen Holmes, a physical therapist who specializes in the treatment of orthopedic and sports related injuries, partnered with the winning pro from year 1, the impressive G. Karen swung the fringe on her dress with aplomb. Bolstered by the most ardent fans who waved red roses on her behalf, Karen, took to the dance floor with a modesty that belied her skills. Judges took note of her performance as did her fans. Combining judges and audience scoring, Karen was announced as one of the top two dancer.

Charlie Roche is a Haverhill Special Ed teacher and soccer coach for both Haverhill High and the Seacoast United Soccer Club. Charlie’s partner, Michelle Garcia, showcased his athleticism through hip hop. Charlie is self effacing, a real sleeper in the competition, with excellent timing and footwork. He looked at ease dancing and that might have been helped by the fact that he got to dance in something that undoubtedly felt very comfortable for him: sweats and sneakers. When judges and audience votes were tallied, Charlie ranked in the top two.

Haverhill native and firefighter Tim Nutter is a swoon worthy renaissance man. He has danced competitively before, is also a dj, and earned the MVP title as quarterback for the semi pro football team, the Granite State Destroyers. His partner, Alisa Nagano, recognized his experience and choreographed a difficult fox trot. Every time people on DWTS are assigned the foxtrot, they note that it is a very difficult dance. Tim made it look easy.  THOH especially noted his posture in hold, long lines and elegance.

Kristyn Pistone is a podiatrist in Bradford MA, who must have been thrilled that the Burju shoes she was wearing were designed for comfort (and glam) while dancing. Kristyn danced with the flamboyant G who did double duty as an instructor. A fan of disco, Kristyn took the challenge to try something very new to her. Her dance was smoldering and she conveyed a trust and a connection with he partner that was a treat for the audience. Shout out to Kristyn’s niece, a volunteer with HC Media who was filming the program.

Wendy Estrella – wow! Even her name means star. Wendy is a busy attorney, but THOH just assumed until she was announced on stage as the contestant that she was one of the dance pros. She rocked her sexy outfit with confidence and flair even before she hit the stage with Justin Penney. Wendy had the attack, the facial expression, posture, lines, and poise of someone who has been dancing tango for decades, though it was new to her. She really commanded the dance floor.


Melissa Cerasuolo is the Business Development Leader for Haverhill Bank and involved in so may civic and philanthropic pursuits that she must run from event to event, meeting to meeting. Melissa took to the floor with pro Julian De Las Nieves. She beamed when she danced and a captivated audience beamed back. She must have drawn from her athletic training because her timing and foot work were outstanding. Melissa received the highest score from the judges who admitted to being blown away be her content-laden, joy inducing performance.

As scores were tabulated, there were live and silent auctions, dance performances, and crowd participation dancing, plus a return of last year’s reigning champion, Ron Trombley. To win his trophy, Ron performed an elegant routine in tuxedo with tails. Tonight he demonstrated his versatility with a fast paced number partnered with event creative director Burju Perez and really ‘Rocked Around the Clock’ after first tossing off his tuxedo jacket like a younger Tom Jones to the catcalls of the audience.

So who was the winner – it was down to two: Karen Holmes and Charlie Roche. And finally announced… Karen Holmes got the highest combined scores. The Heartbeat of Haverhill congratulates Karen, and all the competitors in this thrilling competition.

But the real winners are the people who need and receive the support of Emmaus. This successful event raises funds where 97 cents of every donated dollar goes back to helping the homeless. Through the generosity of the patrons, participants and sponsors, Emmaus will be able to provide emergency housing that will lead to permanent homes for so many people in the Merrimack Valley.

(c)Alison Colby-Campbell



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Alison Colby-Campbell



Full-brain user demonstrating a healthy(?) obsession with marketing, promotion, writing, photography, house rabbits, the natural world, tennis, big and small problem solving, reading, hiking, HGTV and the flotsam & jetsam of everyday life. My three blogs Brain4Rent, The Heartbeat of Haverhill, Alison Colby-Campbell Photography are Wordpress based.

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