Dance floor a platform for faith

Manderfield says volunteering as ‘Shall We Dance’ contestant brought him closer to God

APPLETON — Doug Manderfield, sales and public relations manager for Manderfield’s Home Bakery in Appleton and Menasha, said he learned a valuable lesson from his fourth-grade teacher: “You may be the face of Christ for someone.”

He took that lesson to heart and said he considers Jesus to be his role model and lives his life accordingly.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Doug Manderfield (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

Manderfield is known for giving generously of his time, talent and treasure. He recently stepped up his game when he offered to be a contestant for a fundraiser to benefit the Sexual Assault Crisis Center-Fox Cities. The annual event, which is the biggest fundraiser for the center, is called “Shall We Dance” and was held Oct. 21.

He originally volunteered for the event because he has an interest in dance. “It was something I had done in the past,” said Manderfield, a graduate of St. Mary High School in Menasha who holds a degree in music education from UW-Madison. “I had done some performing in college with Wisconsin Singers.”

After college he taught high school choir for four years and then worked on cruise ships for 10 years, where he sang and danced. At one point, he considered a career as a cruise director, but in 2001 he moved back to the Fox Valley to work at the business his family owns.

Offering to be one of the local celebrities participating in the event was a big commitment for Manderfield, as well as the seven others competing. There were two components to the event:  the participants had to perform a dance routine with a professional dancer and they had to do a substantial amount of fundraising.

“I’m a very independent person, I’m used to doing things alone,” said Manderfield. “This taught me to reach out to the resources in my life, like family members and friends, and let them help me. I used Facebook as a thing to reach out, then people could donate online. I also sent personal texts to everybody.” He also held a brunch at the bakery and set out donation boxes at both bakeries.

When Manderfield joined the event, he wasn’t familiar with the Sexual Assault Crisis Center. “They do educate you right away — they give you all their facts,” he said. “The most shocking thing to me was the fact that most of the victims who called the center were under 18. That just broke my heart. My platform was the fact that in my life I grew up in a safe, loving home with loving parents. It’s hard for me to fathom that there’s a young person that grew up in a home of deception and pain.”

While the fundraising was a daunting task, learning the dance was also a difficult endeavor. His dance partner was Megan Blake, a professional ballroom dance teacher at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Appleton. “We had 10 lessons included and then I purchased 10 additional lessons,” he said. “We did a two-minute and 40-second quickstep jive to a very fast big band song called ‘Dancin’ Fool.’”

His previous dance experience was a plus. He did so well that he and his partner received the best score of the night and he was awarded the Mirrorball Trophy for Best Male Dancer. To top it off, by the end of the evening his total raised was $14,280.02.

“Everyone who had participated in this said it was the best decision they ever made in their lives. It was one of the hardest things they did as far as commitment and time but once it was done they felt such a reward,” said Manderfield.

He had a similar experience. “There were struggles in it, don’t get me wrong, but each time you got over that struggle you went, ‘Oh, that’s why that happened. Oh, that taught me this. Oh, this was rewarding after all.’”

Manderfield said participating in “Shall We Dance” brought him closer to God.

“It made me a better person. There’s a devotional I’m reading, it’s all about finding the presence of God in your daily life. Each day I wake up now and there’s little signs — nothing is a coincidence anymore. Everything is a message from God and he’s so much stronger in my life,” he noted.

“People compliment me for doing this. I can’t take the credit for this because I’ve always had God’s strength in my soul. I believe that firmly,” added Manderfield. “I gave $14,000 to the assault center but I’m a much richer person in life. Together we make the world a brighter place, one step at a time. Getting the trophy wasn’t the reward — the reward was the gratification of seeing your family there and 400 people (in one place) all for a great cause.”

Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Doug Manderfield

Parish: St. Mary, Menasha

Age: 52

Favorite saint: Francis of Assisi

Words to live by: “The Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated.”