August 4, 2006

Awards, celebrity dancing to highlight
annual Elizabella Ball

By Mary Ann Wyand

Michelle Meer has her dancing shoes ready for the 20th annual Elizabella Ball on Aug. 25 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in downtown Indianapolis. She has a tango costume, too.

The executive director of St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services in Indianapolis will join three other “celebrity dancers” in a take-off of ABC’s popular “Dancing With the Stars” competition to help raise funds for the licensed residential maternity facility and adoption agency operated by Catholic Charities in the archdiocese.

Meer will compete with WRTV Channel 6 meteorologist Kevin Gregory, a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg; Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Steve Campbell; and Father Patrick Beidelman, rector of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

The ball also will honor Courageous Heart Award recipients Krystal Gilliland of Indianapolis, a St. Eliza-beth/Coleman resident who placed her baby for adoption and plans to share her story with unwed mothers served by the agency; Conrad Piccirillo of Indianapolis, a volunteer and advisory council member for more than three years; and Our Lady of Grace parishioners Tim and Debbie Shafer of Noblesville, Ind., who adopted their daughter through St. Elizabeth/ Coleman.

“This is totally out of character for me,” Meer said of the dance competition that will follow the 7 p.m. dinner. “I will be doing the tango with a dance instructor. I had never taken a dancing lesson in my life so this has been a whole new experience, but it has been very exciting, very invigorating and a lot of fun. Hopefully, a lot of people will enjoy watching the stars and their dance instructors perform at the ball.”

She said Gregory will perform a ballroom dancing routine to “Singing in the Rain” with his dance instructor—a natural choice given his profession as a weather forecaster.

Father Beidelman and Deputy Mayor Campbell also are rehearsing special dance routines to perform with their instructors.

To find out their music choices, Meer recommends buying tickets for the Elizabella Ball. People can support their favorite dancer for $1 a vote in advance or at the fund raiser.

Meer said dance instructors Katy Fineman, Tina Gugenheim, Marie Roache and Jim McMahon, all of Indianapolis, donated their time and expertise for the competition.

“All of the stars have been practicing once a week for over a month now,” she said. “It will be a lot of fun.”

The Elizabella Ball has changed dramatically during the past two decades, Meer said, from the traditional dinner and speaker to the current format of a dinner dance and silent auction.

“I think 20 years speaks loudly of how dedicated our volunteers have been in making sure that this fund-raising event occurs year after year,” she said. “It’s exciting to know that people have believed in the mission of St. Elizabeth/ Coleman for so many years.”

During the 2005-06 fiscal year, Meer said the agency served 36 teenagers and 26 children through the residential maternity program and 316 people through the domestic and foreign adoption programs.

Last year, she said, 143 volunteers contributed 1,563 hours of service to help at-risk women, babies and children.

“Every person’s story is unique,” Meer said. “The agency staff and volunteers work hard to meet individual needs. As of July 1, we completed 28 domestic adoptions, and several of those were with toddlers. Two adoptions were with infants who were born addicted to methadone. We completed 65 international adoptions, and we’re very excited about that. We also have an outreach program for mothers who choose to parent their children.”

Gilliland was abused as a child and became an unwed mother at age 14. She placed her baby for adoption and participated in St. Elizabeth/Coleman’s independent living course.

In addition to serving on the advisory council, Piccirillo and the staff at Innovative are responsible for creating the agency’s new logo—a contemporary bouquet of red roses, the pro-life symbol—as well as an adoption video, business cards and other promotional materials.

Tim and Debbie Shafer’s inspirational story began when their infant son, Luke Joseph, was born premature and died of complications. Since adopting their daughter, they promote the agency’s pro-life ministry whenever possible.

(Elizabella Ball tickets are $200 per person, $400 per couple and $1,700 for a table of eight. For more information about the ball and to make pledges for the dance competition, call St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services at 317-787-3412 by Aug. 9.) †


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