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Tuesday July 5 2022
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Dance Party

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While the Steelers Nation was still mourning the loss of the Lombardi Trophy to the Green Bay Packers, Hines Ward was already focusing on the pursuit of another championship.

Shortly after Super Bowl 45, ABC announced that Ward would be the next NFL star to participate in the network’s extremely popular “Dancing with the Stars” competition and the wide receiver began a grueling dance practice schedule with professional partner, Kym Johnson.

Steelers fans rejoiced at the possibility of seeing one of their favorites on the national stage. And Butler resident and self-proclaimed Steelers fanatic Karen Lewis was no exception.

Without so much as a church raffle prize to her name, Lewis was hard pressed to believe what she was hearing from the person on the other end of her cell phone.

Lewis and her husband John were enjoying a vacation in California’s Napa Valley, their first ever trip to California, when on April 12, Karen received a call from a member of Hines Ward’s staff telling her that she had won two tickets to see Hines perform live on “Dancing with the Stars” April 24 and an all-expense paid trip to Beverly Hills  A fan who never misses a game, Lewis said, “I totally did not believe the marketing agent who called me and in fact, when she asked for my social security number, I assumed it was a scam!”  

It wasn’t until Ward’s staff faxed an affidavit confirming the prize that she truly became excited.

Things happened quickly after the realization that Lewis and her husband would need to be in Los Angeles in another week. She immediately changed their return flight to Pennsylvania, extending their West Coast stay and re-routing their trip through Los Angeles. Perhaps most important was finding someone back at home in Butler who could overnight some important items to California, including Lewis’s #86 jersey to be autographed and some Terrible Towels to cheer on Hines as he waltzed his way through what Lewis hoped would be another top-ranking performance.

The incredible journey began simply enough – Lewis started following Hines Ward on Facebook. He posted a raffle on his website that she entered.

“If you donated money to his Helping Hands Foundation, you were entered into his raffle to win an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles to be his personal VIP guest at DWTS, meet with him and get autographs,” she explained. Lewis was moved by Ward’s passion to help children improve their literacy and achieve their goals. “I made a donation to the foundation, never dreaming I would win any raffle. I sent my donation a few months ago and honestly forgot all about it,” she said.

Lewis, who crossed going to the Super Bowl off of her bucket list earlier this year after watching the Steelers disappointing loss in Dallas, more than made up for it by meeting her all-time favorite Steeler in person.   

Lewis and her husband were treated like VIPs at the CBS studio where “Dancing” is taped. Once beyond the security checkpoint, Ward’s personal agent Andrew Rees greeted the couple and made sure their time was enjoyable.  

“As soon as we arrived, he called Hines and told him we were there and Hines came out of the trailer and right up to us and hugged me and kissed my cheek and thanked us for donating to his foundation,” she said.

The excitement went beyond meeting Hines Ward. Lewis got photos with several of the professional dancers from the show as well as Brady Bunch mom Florence Henderson (another of her personal favorites), Kirstie Alley, Tom Bergeron, Ralph Macchio and Chris Jericho. She was also able to spend time with Kym Johnson, Ward’s professional partner and already a two-time champion of the show. In addition, she was pleased to have the opportunity to spend some time with Mike Tomlin’s wife Kia, and Art Rooney’s wife Greta and her two daughters. They were all guests of Ward for the two days of the show.  

During the show taping, the Lewis's were seated behind Kelly Preston, actress wife of John Travolta. The second evening of taping, the results show, was a little more enjoyable for Lewis, who admits she was much less nervous the second time around.

Overall, the experience went beyond anything Karen Lewis could have ever imagined.

“Hines was exactly what you’d expect – an incredible athlete, a spectacular dancer, but more than that, a wonderful, caring man, who loves to give back.”  

DWTS gave America a chance to see what Pittsburgh already knows – Hines Ward is a rare role model in professional sports, a true gentleman and champion.

The show’s 12th season finale aired on May 24th with an audience that included Ward’s mother, Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis, among many other notables. Ward did not disappoint, delivering flawless performances before being crowned this season’s DWTS Champion and adding the Mirror Ball to City of Champions’ trophy list.

Karen Lewis didn’t have to wait until May 24 to know who the real winner of this season’s DWTS was.

“Mirror Ball or not, Hines will always be the champion,” she said. “This was an experience that I could never have imagined, but feel so, so blessed to have gotten to do.”

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