Sizzling Salsa Dancing Raises Money for Project Understanding

Project Understanding, which commemorated its 40th anniversary on July 7, will continue the celebration when one of its board members dances to raise money for the nonprofit organization during the Oxnard Salsa Festival held in Plaza Park in Downtown Oxnard, July 29 and 30.

Board member and budding salsa dancer Caryl Cantrell, a third generation Venturan, is one of six community leaders who will put on their dancing shoes for charity during the “2017 Dancing With Our Community Stars Dance Contest and Charity Fundraiser.” The contest is a salsa version of the hit TV show “Dancing With The Stars.” Local celebrities are paired with the area’s top dance instructors–in Cantrell’s case, longtime dance instructor Lovie Hernandez–for a salsa showdown at the festival’s main stage dance floor at 1:00 pm on Sunday, July 30.

“Not being able to provide for your family or being homeless can happen to anyone,” says Cantrell. “That’s when Project Understanding can help. I typically run the half marathon fundraiser to support Project Understanding but I couldn’t resist this opportunity to salsa. Lovie Hernandez is well known in the salsa dance community and he is challenging me in so many ways. I look forward to the dance contest and raising funds for Project Understanding.”

The dancers are competing for the “Judge’s Choice Award” for the best routine, but just as important is the “People’s Choice Award,” given to the dancer who raises the most money for his or her charity. Donations for any of the contestants can be made online and during the festival at the “Dancing With Our Community Stars” booth. Over the years, the contest has raised more than $750,000 for local charities. For information about all the community dancers and the dancers, go to

Founded on July 7, 1977, Project Understanding serves the underserved and at-risk in Ventura County. Staff members are on the streets working with other local agencies to help the homeless get housed. It runs a busy food pantry, distributing groceries to over 1,200 hungry people every month. Project’s volunteers are in the schools and churches helping tutor hundreds of kids to empower them to succeed and excel in school. Project Understanding provides case management for 15 families through its SHORE Program (Supportive Housing Opportunities in a Residential Environment) and manages a five-unit complex for veterans and behavior health clients in Oxnard.

“We are so thankful for those who have supported Project Understanding, and we remain committed to serving our community for the long term,” said Board of Directors President Jann Huling. “We’ve been helping the homeless and hungry in Ventura County for 40 years, and we’re better preparing to deliver 40 more.”

The 24th Annual Oxnard Salsa Festival is presented by the Oxnard Downtowners. Festival hours are from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. both days.

The two‐day event draws an estimated 45,000 festivalgoers. Event highlights include live entertainment, a salsa-tasting tent, an eclectic vendor marketplace, international foods, a kids’ play zone and a salsa recipe contest. Admission and parking are free. Main stage open seating is $5. For more information, go to

Lovie Hernandez and Caryl Cantrell

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