By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Next month, Bristol veterans Tim Gamache and Dave Carello will take over the dance floor to show off their Ballroom and Latin dance moves for the first time with the goal of supporting other veterans and their families.
For over several months now, Gamache and Carello have been taking dance lessons once a week at the Middletown Fred Astaire Dance Studios in preparation for the 2014 Dancing With Our Heroes Gala, which will take place Saturday, Sept. 13 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. The event will include a sit-down dinner, general dancing, a silent auction, and a professional show, as well as the actual dance competition among dozens of other veterans. Each participating veteran, who received free lessons from each participating Fred Astaire Dance Studio, will partner with a professional dance instructor for a Ballroom and Latin dance competition. The audience and a panel of celebrity judges will choose the winners.
The net proceeds of the gala will benefit The Friends of the Fisher House Connecticut, which anticipates the construction of another Fisher House facility on the grounds of the West Haven VA. Last year, the gala raised over $125,000 for the Fisher House. This year, the goal is to raise $200,000.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to serve…and it’s all about paying it forward,” said Carello, who currently serves as vice chairman of the Bristol Veterans Council.
For over 20 years, The Fisher House has offered services to over 142,000 military families who have stayed more than 3.6 million days supporting their soldier undergoing rehabilitation, according to the foundation’s website. The Fisher House maintains and builds long-term residential facilities near military hospitals around the country for families of seriously hurt soldiers who need shelter throughout the duration of the rehabilitation process, stated the foundation’s website.
“Having your family there with you when you are in rehab, being treated, expedites your rehabilitation, it expedites your return home,” said Gamache, the former chairman of the Bristol Veterans Council. “These are men and women who have been wounded to the point where there’s a lot of rehab involved.”
Both Carello and Gamache have been paired with professional dance instructor Raquel Gomez, who has been dancing since the age of 9, and will serve as their partner the night of the gala. Gamache said he is learning foxtrot, which is a more sophisticated type of dance than he thought it was while Carello is learning swing, which involves many spins, turns, and bumping. Whereas other full-time dance students of Gomez learn the moves over the period of six or seven months, Gamache and Carello have learned them in just a matter of a few months.
“She’s taken a couple of war horses like [Gamache] and I and…[during] our first dance lesson, we looked pretty heavy-footed, a lot of plotting around the dance floor,” said Gamache, recalling how he has not taken dance lessons since age 11 with Miss Mulcunry. “With her skill at what she does, it’s taken us to a point where we actually know some of the dance steps and I think we’re going to be okay.”
“She’s giving us the fast-paced, abbreviated course,” added Carello. “But she gets the results.”
Gamache began his military service in the U.S. Navy Seabees from 1967 to 1970, completing a tour in Vietnam. He then took a 10-year hiatus from the military before returning in 1980, staying in the U.S. Army Reserve until 1997 and serving as a drill sergeant during ten of those years. Both Gamache and Carello served together in the U.S. Army Reserve as drill sergeants at Fort Dix, N.J. After his military service, Gamache served on the Bristol Veterans Council from 1998 to 2013.
Gamache said his decision to compete in the gala was a no-brainer.
“For me it was an absolute,” said Gamache. “Because it’s for the Fisher House, that was more than enough cause for me to do it… It’s all about the veterans—we both served with many.”
Carello began his military career in 1977 with the U.S. Army Infantry, and also served in the Army National Guard. In 1984, he joined the Army Reserve where he served as drill sergeant with Gamache. After his military service of eight years, Carello was an officer for the Bristol Police Department, and after Sept. 11, he joined the military again, training soldiers at Camp Niantic before entering the Infantry again. He served in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007 as an Infantry soldier at 54 years old. Upon returning, Carello got promoted to Infantry 1st Sergeant, and maintained that position up until six months ago when he retired.
For Carello, joining Gamache on the dance floor was a decision that involved no second guesses.
“I’m the father of [a soldier], and I served with many,” said Carello, adding that his son was wounded in Iraq. “My son nearly lost his life, and I saw soldiers who lost legs and feet—I have mine, and…I will dance for that.”
To help support the Fisher House, visit www.dancingwithourheroes.com and cast a ballot for Gamache and Carello. Each vote is equivalent to a donation of $1 to the cause.
“The more people donate, the quicker we get the [new] Fisher House,” said Gamache, adding that his attitude on dancing has changed, and would consider learning new movies after the Gala. “It’s veterans helping other veterans, and we’re hoping the public will support that endeavor.”
Comments? Email lcapobianco@Bristol