My Pro-Am Ballroom dance journey resulted from a fateful meeting with Italo Elgueta through LaBlast, an exercise dance fitness program created by three time World Latin Dance Championship dancer, Louis Van Amstel. Similarly, my involvement with Africa and African Wildlife Foundation started during another fateful meeting at a Leadership Conference on Necker Island in February 2015. It was there on that unique beautiful island that I met Veronica Varekova, Supermodel and a devoted AWF Trustee for 10 years. At the meeting, I heard Veronica speak about AWF’s dedicated wildlife conservation work. I instinctively knew then that I wanted to combine my passion for dancing with charitable causes.
In May 2015, I went to Washington DC during the AWF board meeting and had the opportunity to meet with the dynamic and passionate leadership executive team.
Following that meeting a few months later, I learned about a safari that AWF was sponsoring in early 2016. The safari was organized by Thomson Safaris out of Watertown MA. Thomson has been leading safaris in Tanzania for over 30 years and they only focus on Tanzania. In conjunction with AWF leadership, they guide a spectacular unique itinerary.
After starting out in a rustic comfortable hotel, we then traveled to the Canine’s for Conservation program area and got to witness the training of the sniffer dogs that are deployed to critical trafficking hubs to help law enforcement, like Kenya Wildlife Service, detect illegal wildlife products. These highly trained dogs can detect even the smallest amounts of wildlife contraband, like ivory or rhino horn dust, and they boast a 90 percent accuracy rate. This experience makes such an impression on you when you see how these dogs learn to sniff out the ivory.
The end of our trip took place in the famed Serengeti – the highlight of the Northern Tanzania area. The Serengeti is known as the greatest wildlife reserve in East Africa. Each day on safari is different from the last. After your first day out when you see your first elephants and giraffes, they become ‘almost’ commonplace when you start out each morning and then you and your guide start to look for the lions, cheetahs and leopards. We were extremely fortunate on one of our last days to see a group of safari vans surrounding a tree with 13 lions lounging in it!
It wasn’t only the spectacle of the 13 lions, but the interaction of the mother lion to all of her cubs that was a once in a lifetime experience.
Those 9 days in Africa were transformational and just as my introduction to Pro-Am dancing was life changing, so too was the safari experience and the transformative nature of AWF’s initiatives and programs. AWF’s mission is to ensure wildlife and wildlands thrive in modern Africa. My exposure to Africa and AWF staff affected me in dramatic fashion and enhanced my desire to do what I could to support the mission of this 60 year old organization.
While simultaneously confirming our incredible line up of performers for our show, most notably Karina Smirnoff and Mark Ballas, we put together a RIDE/AWF SAFARI for March 19-31 2018. There are 12 spots for paying guests and we will be raffling off 2 spots for this superb once in a lifetime safari. Raffle tickets can be purchased on our www.ridevents.org for $100.00. The actual cost of the safari is $8500.00 for the 2 weeks March 19-31 and the details for this once in a lifetime safari can be found there.
RIDE hope’s you’ll join us for what will be a memorable one-of-a- kind evening and a charity event unlike any other! Please visit our website www.ridevents.org to reserve your private seating area, general admission ticket, make a donation or buy raffle tickets. All information can be found on our website. Now in closing this article, I’m getting ready to attend the 2017 AWF Board meeting as an appointed member of their Council which was established a couple of years ago. See you all on July 23rd at the Boulevard3 in Los Angeles!
Here is an interview Dance Beat had with Robyn & Italo back in February 2017