Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Stafford Fitzgerald Haney, US Ambassador to Costa Rica from 2015 to 2017, former Englewood resident, international businessman, speaker of five languages, son of an African-American civil rights activist, husband of a rabbi and father of four, may have finally added the experience that will truly make him “the most interesting man in the world.” His latest endeavor? “Dancing With the Stars: Costa Rica.”

Haney’s ambassadorship was characterized by his sincere desire to interact with and learn from the people of the many diverse communities of Costa Rica, from urbanites in the sprawling capital city of San José to those living in the remote, natural areas that make the country a beautiful, varied treasure. At the end of his tenure as U.S. Ambassador, the Costa Rican government awarded Haney the prestigious distinction of the National Order of Juan Mora Fernández, Gran Cruz Placa de Plata (Great Cross Plate of Silver) rank, an honor given to heads of state, ambassadors and other high-level foreign individuals in recognition of their service to the country.

“Fitz” Haney has an open, easy-going nature that is clearly expressed through a gleaming, cheerful smile and friendly demeanor. His sense of adventure has led him to experience things “completely outside of [his] comfort zone,” as he explained to a reporter from Costa Rica’s La Nación. This bold spirit of exploration led him to accept the invitation to train, perform and compete on “Dancing With the Stars: Costa Rica,” one of the most popular television shows in the country. For months, Haney has trained with his partner, professional dancer (and previous winner) Lucía Jiménez, learning to perform dance routines in all different styles. On Sunday, September 10, the dancers made their sparkling television debut with a salsa performance!

In the audience, seen briefly at the beginning of the performance dutifully playing the roles of a befuddled family who sees its husband and father whisked off into a fantastically elaborate and expressive dance with a glamorous stranger in glitter and stilettos, were a very excited Andrea Haney and the couple’s four young children, Asher, Nava, Eden and Shaia. Andrea is a survivor of breast cancer who has used her public role to speak openly and compassionately about her experience with women everywhere. She has worked to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research, saying in an interview with Costa Rica’s Tico Times, “I don’t believe this happened for a reason, but I’ll make a good reason for this to have happened.”

Ambassador Haney’s proceeds from his “Dancing” residency will be donated to Costa Rica’s Dr. Anna Gabriela Ross Foundation, which provides “psychosocial support for people with cancer.” Englewood’s “most interesting man in the world” is dancing not only to win—which we can help him achieve by voting online—but also to support and bring awareness to a critically important cause that is close to his and his family’s heart.

To vote online for “Fitz and Lucía,” please visit http://app01.teletica.com/dwts/register.php. You must register first, and you can vote up to seven times per day.

To see Fitz and Lucía’s debut performance, visit http://www.teletica.com/Noticias/172651-.note.aspx.

By Alison Dobrick, Ed.D.