Andrea Ryan and Dr. Kemmely Hochstetler pose with trophies from winning the Red Cross’ Dancing With Our Stars event. Hochstetler, a family doctor with SOMC, has been part of the winning team two years in a row.
There she was.
For the second consecutive year, Dr. Kemmely Hochstetler found herself basking in the glow of victory at the Red Cross’ charity dance competition, Dancing With Our Stars. The previous year, she was invited to participate as a local “star.” This time, she wasn’t invited to participate at all.
Still, there she was. A back-to-back champion in the most dramatic, and chaotic, way possible.
In an alternate universe where everything goes as planned, Kemmely and her husband, Marion, would have sat in the audience and watched Andrea Ryan light up the stage with someone else. That was the plan until Andrea’s partner told her he was pulling out of the competition just 48 hours before the show.
When that message arrived, Andrea’s heart sank. After the hours of practice, after all of her fundraisers, she would have little choice but to drop out as well.
“When I got that text, I thought, ‘I’m just going to have to let someone else have my money,’” Andrea said. “Then, within 30 minutes, I got a text from Kemmely.”
It was 11:30 p.m. when Kemmely first heard about Andrea’s situation. By midnight, the two were on the phone discussing her options. Andrea still wanted to compete. After all, the competition is all about fundraising and she’d already raised a lot of money. With all the factors laid out, there was really only one solution: Kemmely would take her partner’s place.
By the end of their midnight chat, Andrea had a new partner but she still needed a routine. So, while other competitors were preparing for their dress rehearsals, Andrea and Kemmely started building a brand new routine from scratch.
“She came over to my house at noon, and we basically rehearsed until our heads were pounding from dehydration and exhaustion,” Kemmely said.
With some help from Debbie Kielmar of the SOMC LIFE Center and Dr. John Turjoman, the two choreographed a dance and practiced for five hours straight. They met up the day of the event and practiced again, cramming in as many run-throughs as they could before the competition began.
Because they had missed the dress rehearsal, the first time they would perform their routine on stage would be during the actual event. While others were enjoying the evening, Andrea and Kemmely were pacing and praying. They were still trying to figure out where to place the various props for their performance up until the moment the curtains opened.
“Backstage, we kept moving the chairs around because we really couldn’t figure out how to position them,” Kemmely said.
The duo pulled help from wherever they could find it. Kemmely’s husband found himself seated on stage instead of in the audience. Guests who had planned to watch the event beside them were recruited to be stagehands. They scrambled and prayed to cap off a whirlwind experience with an event-ready routine.
Instead, they capped it off with an event-winning one.
“I wanted to cry. I was just like, ‘We did it,’” Andrea said.
Andrea’s story is an example of what you can achieve when you fight through adversity, but it’s also a reminder that a rocky road can lead you places a paved one never goes. In Andrea’s case, the courage with which she faced down her challenges was not lost on the donors in attendance.
“Andrea had a lot of sponsors that came to bat for her the day of the actual event, which is not uncommon. A lot of these things get won the day of the actual event,” Kemmely said. “That was definitely the case for her, as well. She had some big sponsors come in that night.”
In the end, Andrea’s efforts earned $41,192 for the Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. It also earned her a story almost too good to be true, and a big shiny trophy to prove it really happened.
Even if it wasn’t supposed to.