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‘So, You Think You Can RISE’ Grand Finale Raised Much Needed Funds

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Teatro Vallarta was buzzing with excitement as the Grand Finale of ‘So, You Think You Can RISE,’ the city’s third annual variety talent show, took place on Sunday night (Feb 18). This event truly was a night of unparalleled entertainment featuring fresh, incredible, local talent.

Inspired by America’s Got Talent, the competition has been fierce. After four preliminary rounds at The Palm Cabaret, eight exceptional finalists emerged, who captivated the audience with their unique skills at this highly anticipated Grand Finale at Teatro Vallarta.

The contestants competed for a grand prize of $20,000 pesos and the chance to perform at one of Puerto Vallarta’s premier entertainment venues. Hosted by Branden James (from the singing duo Branden & James) and Brenda Gavino, the evening was a spectacular showcase of talent, with the audience serving as the ultimate judges in selecting the winner.

Adding to the excitement, the event doubled as a fundraiser for RISE Children’s Shelter, a local organization dedicated to providing a safe and loving environment for children in need. An incredible total of $55,000 USD was pledged at the event from supporters with a matching $20,000 from a local business that made it possible.

For those who were unable to attend, there is still an opportunity to support the cause by contacting Lisa(at)risepv.com to arrange their contributions.

Judges for the Grand Finale were Mark Rome (Artistic Director of The Palm Cabaret), Kim Kuzma (Vallarta’s Darling Diva of Song and Top Realtor in PV) and Juan Alvarado (owner of La Catrina Cantina). The 3 finalists that the judges chose were Sebastian El Antpodista (a dare-devil, master juggler); Sargento Dan (potentially Broadway’s next star) and Angeloo (a 10-year-old child singing prodigy).

A special applause meter measured the applause and support that each contestant received at the end of the night. All of the contestants of the evening performed and the three finalists performed a second time for the audience.

Angeloo was crowned the winner of this year’s competition and will receive $20,000 pesos and an opportunity to perform a show at one of the major venues in town. The 2 runner-ups each received $10,000 pesos and the other acts received $2,000 pesos, due to the generosity of sponsors. The Steve Gates Spirit Award was given to pianist, Melina and her dancers.

The sponsors (all local businesses) and the coaches (all local performers & producers) devoted their time and resources to help make the 3rd Annual RISE Talent Competition a roaring success. Lisa Manoogian (RISE’s Treasurer) led the fundraising and introductions and is truly a gift from heaven for this organization. Thanks to PVRPV as the major sponsor and to Cassandra Shaw and Al Carswell for donating the prize money. And to all the other sponsors we are so very grateful!

The children of R.I.S.E. treated the audience to a lovely Disney-themed dance performance. And Gabe Arciniega thrilled us with a gorgeous song. The pre-show was lovely and over 800 of us filled the seats of the grand Teatro Vallarta.

The Grand Finale was filled with laughter, gasps, and electrifying energy as “So, You Think You Can RISE” crowned Angeloo its champion and raised vital funds for a worthy cause. What a special community we have in Vallarta that cares about its children, helping to give them a fair chance in life. And another special shout-out goes to Lisa Manoogian and Billy Pilawsk for another successful RISE Talent competition, and the angels (workers & volunteers) at RISE who love these children and devote themselves each day to their well-being and futures.


RISE (Refugio Infantil Santa Esperanza) has been home to hundreds of children since 2001. Some live there for months and others for years. Currently there are 20 children living at RISE from the ages of 8 months to 11 years old. The children come to RISE from DIF (Child Protective Services), but DIF is unable to provide any financial support. Therefore, RISE is 100% privately funded through donations ad fundraisers.

The children go to school, receive medical and dental care, and are provided a clean and healthy living environment with loving care givers and volunteers. Today RISE operates with a team of 18 employees and 30+ volunteers, providing all the necessities for the shelter to operate efficiently while keeping child development, safety and health as their top priorities. Please email contacto(at)risepv.com for more information.

R.I.S.E. (Refugio Infantil Santa Esperanza) is a privately funded, 50-bed children’s shelter in Puerto Vallarta, providing a loving environment for children who are “at risk” at home or have no home. These resilient children range in age from newborn to mid-teens. For 20 years RISE has operated with a combination of a great staff and a team of volunteers that keep RISE running. RISE is 100% funded through private donations and fundraising is a huge part of our ability to provide these children with nutritional meals, education, medical and dental services, activities, clothing & more. Learn more at risepv.com.

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