Dancing With the Stars Austin is back with their biggest event yet; Austin Woman’s Ana Ruelas participates to bring her passion and purpose together for the cause.
By Cy White, Photos courtesy of the Center for Child Protection
This time last year, organizers at the Center for Child Protection (CCP) were making the finishing touches on their biggest event of the year, Dancing With the Stars Austin. It’s an event with a long-standing tradition at the organization, a nonprofit whose goal is to, according to the CCP website, aid in the “investigation of crimes against children. For more than 30 years, the Center has been the first stop for children in Travis County who are suspected victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse and for children who have witnessed a violent crime.”
Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) Austin is more than a fundraiser. It’s a moment of levity that allows the Austin community to come together and give children the help they deserve and need. Now in its sixteenth year, the fundraiser offers participants the opportunity to both dance for an incredible cause and raise brand awareness. More than anything, however, it’s a chance for everyone to put their money where their hearts are and give children a chance to survive and find joy. To come out of the dark and embrace light.
This year, incoming Austin Woman Co-owner Ana Ruelas takes part in the fundraiser. It was an easy decision. The founder and managing partner of The Agency Austin—a global boutique real estate brokerage—has a very profound connection to any cause and organization providing services for women and children. She sits on the board of the Texas Book Festival; has served on the board of Con Mi MADRE—a 501(c)(3) organization created to empower young Latina women to further their education—and Latinitas, whose mission is to empower all girls to innovate through media and technology.
“It’s more than just about helping solve the challenge of abused children,” Ruelas says. “It’s also about helping parents who don’t really have the means to provide for their children, or intervening in bad situations where there’s an abusive parent or an abusive spouse.”
The work that CCP does hits close to home for Ruelas. Her participation in DWTS Austin comes with a personal stake. She knows firsthand what it is to be a child growing up in a tumultuous home situation. “That gets to the core of my ‘why,’” she says. “How do we help The Center help these children have better lives so they’re not stuck in a vicious cycle. Not just supporting them near term, but also long term so they can break their negative cycles and patterns and thrive. It’s about ensuring abuse is gone from their lives.”
CCP’s impact is proof positive of the type of work Ruelas has dedicated her life to. In 2020, the center served 1,739 children and 1,117 families. They provided therapy services for 1,607 children and 1,149 adults, with the help of 265 volunteers donating over 5,600 hours of their time. Through grants, donations and fundraising, CCP raised almost $8.4 million, 90% of which went directly to the programs they provide for children and families.
More than an event, DWTS Austin is an opportunity, one of many CCP offers for the community to become directly involved in the protection and care of children in dire situations. Ruelas points out the many ways the community can become involved. “Obviously, donating funds. That allows The Center to access resources as they need them. Things we take for granted like clothes, diapers and toys are also incredibly important. Helping in these ways is so important.”
Ruelas’ involvement with DWTS Austin is her opportunity to both support CCP and fulfill a goal she’s had since the beginning of the pandemic. “I was turning 50, and I made a list of 50 things I wanted to do for my 50th birthday,” she reveals. “Dancing With the Stars was on that list, but COVID happened, and I just didn’t feel comfortable. The moment didn’t feel right. But I’ve been asked for several years to be part of Dancing With the Stars, so when they called me this year, I said, ‘Yes, of course I’ll do it.’ It helped that they put a little bit of pressure, because I had 12 people on the phone asking me to do it,” she says with a chuckle.
“I’m inspired by the amazing work The Center does. The number of people it takes to actually make this happen is so impressive. To get the word out about what The Center is able to accomplish.
“What am I most looking forward to?” Ruelas ruminates on the question for only a moment. “When it’s over, we raise a ton of money. I’m looking forward to this whole village that’s going to be there that night. Coming through for The Center, not just that night, but long term. I want it to be the biggest night The Center has ever had.”