A Football Player Dances for Riley Kids


February 27, 2019
Topics: Donors, Pediatric Research, Child Life



charles image
Charles with his dance partner, Suzi

Art and sport have so much in common. Practice, study, travel. Then playing the game. Or, putting on a show. They just have different arenas. 

Someone who knows that well these days is Charles Torwudzo. He played football for Brownsburg High School, then Purdue University for four years on a football scholarship and a few years of pro ball. He now works for USA Football as U.S. National Team Coordinator. 

Where does the art come in? He is also one of the celebrity dancers for 2019 Reason to Dance, a dance competition modeled after Dancing with the Stars. Heading into its fifth year on March 8, Reason to Dance has raised over $300,000 in support of Child Life programs and research at Riley Hospital. 

Dancing—and Fundraising

Charles’ life has been entrenched in football, so he understands competition. And since November, he’s been dealing with it two-fold: Training to compete in the March 8 event—the ballroom dance competition at the Indiana Roof Ballroom—and the competition to raise money. 

Is one harder than the other? “Raising money is definitely harder!” says Charles. “Fundraising is like being in sales. Finding that consistency and sweet spot between telling your story and asking too much.” 

But dancing is challenging too. “The dance is significantly harder than I thought. When you see Dancing with the Stars, you don’t realize the work. But my football training has helped. You can’t be too hard on yourself too early. It’s like when we’d get a new playbook – there were hundreds of different plays in a play book. It was overwhelming. But then it becomes second nature.” 

His professional dance partner is Suzi DeSante of the Arthur Murray Dance School in Carmel, Indiana. They debuted a dance at the preview night, dancing to the song “You’re Welcome” from the Disney film Moana.  Charles did well. “Everything I say about football I can say about dance – lots of strategy and foot placement!”

Prone to giving back

The philanthropy aspect he seems to have a knack for too. As a college student, he attended regular Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meetings. There he met two other athletes and they formed BoilermakerWish, a non-profit organization that gives free tickets to Purdue athletic games to kids facing physical adversity in the West Lafayette and Lafayette communities.  

“We built that to bring a smile to kids’ faces,” said Charles. “Reason to Dance is bigger. If you are willing to donate, see the bigger picture. It’s not for me – it’s for the end person who is receiving the benefit. It’s for the kids at Riley.”

He recently met a special Riley kid: the late Tyler Trent. Tyler raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer at the same time he was fighting it. Both Purdue grads, Charles met Tyler for the first and only time at Riley Children’s Foundation annual luncheon in November. “When people ask if I have a Riley connection, I tell them about Tyler. He’s my connection. I was so excited to meet him. We are both Boilermakers. I told him I am dedicating my dance to him.”

Want to support Charles with his fundraising effots?

Click here to vote for him on the Reason to Dance website. 

Charles is also hosting a fundraising workout class on Tuesday, March 5: 

  • SHRED415 studio, 11503 Spring Mill Road, Suite 400, Carmel, IN 46032
  • Events starts at 6:45 p.m. and 100% of the proceeds go to Reason to Dance 

Riley Blogger

The Riley Blog is written and/or edited by members of the Riley Children's Foundation Communications Staff.


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