By Lindsay Carey
Southington High School teacher, army veteran, football coach and science fiction author are just a few ways one could define the accomplished
. This fall, competitive dancer can be added to the list.
Durbin, or the Colonel as some know him, will dance for charity in Dancing with Our Heroes, a fundraising gala, on Sept. 13 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.
While looking for a new Connecticut charity to donate his book sale proceeds to, Durbin stumbled across Dancing with Our Heroes, a charity that pairs military veterans with professional dancers to raise money for Fisher Houses.
Durbin, who served as lieutenant colonel and Airborne Ranger in the Army, was happy to join a cause that funds a place for the families of in-patient veterans to stay free of charge.
The New England Region of the Fred Astaire Dance Studios helped launch the campaign last year, because they wanted to give back to veterans and their families. The studios provides free lessons and dancing shoes for the participating heroes.
Last year’s gala was held in November and raised $125,000 to donate to Fisher Houses. The goal for the 2014 competition is to raise $500,000.
This year, 42 veterans from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are being sponsored by 22 Fred Astaire Dance Studios.
Karen Green, Assistant Area Director of the New England Region of Fred Astaire Dance Studios, said that once she met some of the veterans it changed her perspective.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘thank you for your service,’ when you see someone in uniform,” said Green. “But to actually meet someone who has lost a son or a limb and had their family stay at a Fisher House, it becomes personal.”
Green has learned the stories of many of the heroes participating in the dance competition and has become personally attached to the cause.
With donations coming in from various places, Green said Durbin is currently the leading hero and will soon make a $10,000 goal.
After deciding to join the cause, Southington High School students and faculty rallied behind Durbin.
Last Wednesday, Durbin said he had to leave the room when he found out just how much financial support his community had raised for him to participate in the fundraiser.
“Honestly, I’m still pretty choked up about it,” said Durbin, who normally tries to keep a stone face. “The students and faculty opened their hearts and their wallets for me.”
The community had raised $3,500 for him and the American Legion, which he is a member of, also matched that donation.
Durbin is now training two times a week with Amanda Meador, from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Orange, and says he’s finally getting down the basics.
“It’s new for me. People have only seen me dance at weddings,” said Durbin. “Dancing is hard work, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Durbin and Meador gave a sneak preview dance at the Southington “Music on the Green” on June 18 to promote Dancing with our Heroes.
With a long line of family service history and raised an army brat himself, Durbin is proud to help wounded soldiers, a cause near and dear to his heart. He said he was happy to join the cause, even if dancing is out of his comfort zone.
Durbin’s military experience is what led him to his current career, teaching and coaching. After teaching while in the military at Combined Arms and Services Staff School, Durbin moved on to teach ROTC at UConn for four years.
While subbing at Southington High School, Durbin became certified to teach and is now the history teacher there. During this time, his neighbor got him involved with the high school football team. He was brought in to help condition the team and stuck with it for ten years. He has seen the team through various head coach changes as the conditioning and sideline management coach.
“I have to instill a certain amount of discipline and responsibility as a coach,” said Durbin, which may explain why he is known as the Colonel by some around the high school.
Along with teaching and coaching, Durbin has written two science fiction books. The first, “Paine – Time of Anarchy,” took Durbin nine years to write and his second, “UN Real Paine,” took nine months. Ironically, he is now hoping to finish his third, about a post apocalyptic future, in the nine weeks he has off this summer.
Those interested in donating to the cause should visit http://dancingwithourheroes.com/category/heroes2014/.