For Jennifer Granger, serving as a contestant in the Dancing with the Detroit Stars fundraiser gala is a natural extension of her deep involvement in charity work.
“We’re very fortunate in our lives,” Granger says, “I feel if you live in a community, you really have to make it the best community it can be. I feel like I have to teach my daughters about being good citizens of the world.”
Granger, 51, is heavily involved in Detroit-area nonprofits. She serves on the board of City Year Detroit and regularly volunteers with Gleaner’s Community Food Bank, the Empowerment Plan, the Detroit Music Hall and other organizations. She and her husband, Chris Granger, who works as group president overseeing the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings and entertainment venues for Ilitch Holdings, are also chairing the Make-a-Wish Foundation ball in October.
Having been active in efforts to fight homelessness elsewhere, Jennifer heard about Lighthouse and reached out to see how she could help. That call led to running a food drive out of her home for Lighthouse and having her daughters drop off personal-care items. The latest twist was an invitation to dance Nov. 16 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.
“I was like, ‘Yes, I am totally in,’” Granger recalls. “I think this is awesome. They were very surprised that I said yes.”
Granger grew up dancing but says she’s never done anything remotely like Dancing with the Detroit Stars. She began practice at Arthur Murray in September and has been going twice a week for lessons.
She plans to perform a combination dance of the hustle and the cha-cha.
“It’s much harder than I thought it was going to be,” Granger says. “It’s very mentally challenging. But I really enjoy it. It’s 45 minutes of nothing but thinking about how I’m moving my feet.”
Granger is still working on getting the steps down to the music she’s selected, which she won’t divulge. She promises a trick as part of her routine, and says part of the dance involves a solo.
Granger hails from Trumbull, Connecticut. She met her husband when both were living in New York City. They’ve been married for 15 years and live in Birmingham.
She also lived in San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, and Sacramento, California, before Chris came to Detroit in 2017 to take a job with the Ilitch family. He was previously president of the Sacramento Kings and worked for 14 years for the NBA in New York.
While living in New York, Jennifer co-launched the nonprofit Spirit of Hope, which provides scholarships to children in the foster care system. In Sacramento, she chaired events or became a board member for numerous organizations.
Now, she’s passed along her passion for philanthropy to her daughters, one of whom launched Caring Kids Kits, featuring personal care items packed in tube socks that are distributed to homeless people.
Her husband and daughters will be among the crowd cheering her on Nov. 16 even though the girls are “very embarrassed that I’m doing this.”
“I’m excited,” she says. “I’m getting very nervous about dancing in front of so many people. It’s for charity, and I’m just going to have a good time with it.”