You almost couldn’t stand still, even if you wanted to. Because Zumba creator himself, Beto Perez, was on the FIU campus, leading a class in an epic workout.
The club version of Donna Summer disco hit “Hot Stuff” flowed through the speakers at Florida International University’s Wellness and Recreation Center on the Modesto A. Maidique campus. And about 200 Zumba enthusiasts followed Perez’s steps, glides and slides in the dance workout that has swept across the world. The best part: it was all to raise money for a new College of Business scholarship dedicated to fund education for a cancer survivor.
“I love to give back to our community,” said Michelle Gonzalez, president of the FIU chapter of REAAC, the Real Estate Alumni Affinity Council, who organized the February 25, 2017 event.
The idea had been percolating for a number of years, said Gonzalez, who earned her master’s degree in international real estate in 2016 from FIU and her bachelor’s in finance from FIU in 2001. “I had this idea: I’m a Panther, and I love Zumba,” she said.
In fact, Gonzalez, a broker at Coral Gables-based Floridian First Realty, was in one of Perez’s first Miami class, and continues to take classes with him. Working with his assistant, Gonzalez was able to place the idea of hosting the FIU class before Perez, who often donates his time.
“I try to do these kinds of events, and support charities,” explained Perez a few minutes before he bounded out to lead the class. “Everything is going well for our company, and we want to give back.”
And give back he did, with a dance workout that had participants sweating and guzzling water, and, if their smiles were any indication, very happy.
Zumba supports medical, social issues.
The Hallandale Beach-based Zumba Fitness Co., established in 2001, has more than 15 million weekly participants across 186 countries. It was founded by Perez, along with Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion, fellow Miamians who like Perez hail from Colombia. Aghion, a 1999 graduate of FIU’s College of Business, was inducted into the FIU Alumni Hall of Fame in 2011.
The company has raised millions with a focus on medical and social issues, including cancer research and supporting a Central America summer camp for children with cancer.
“The Zumba class turned out to be even more rewarding than initially anticipated,” said Malbelys Gonzalez (no relation to Michelle) a member of the executive board of REAAC at FIU, who earned her MSIRE in 2016 and works as a real estate paralegal with Greenberg Traurig. “The energy and enthusiasm was palpable. We were grateful to have the opportunity to fundraise for a great cause while working out and dancing the morning away.”
A legacy fulfilled.
Michelle Gonzalez said she has a special interest in cancer. When she was just 22, her mother died of the disease. And recently, a good friend was diagnosed with a malignancy. “Cancer has always been an awareness, and a part of my life,” she said.
The scholarship is a way to honor her mother. The college will choose the recipient.
All told, event participants raised $2,000. But that wasn’t all. At the end of the session, Perez personally donated another $1,000.
Gonzalez was ecstatic. “I’d like to make this a yearly event,” she said. “That will be my goal. I’m thankful we are able to come together as a community.”