The music was blasting, hips were swaying and money was rolling in as the fifth annual Dancing for a Cause fundraiser got under way.
Local celebrities and those eager to watch them on the dance floor gathered at the Chattahoochee Country Club Saturday, Aug. 25, to see all the work the celebrities had put in over the past three months of training.
“It’s going great, it’s going smoothly and the dances are amazing,” said Barbara Hicks, director of program development at Center Point. “The nerves are finally settled.”
In addition to the competition on the dance floor, the dancers competed to raise the most money for three local nonprofits in Hall County. The participant with the best combination of dance scores and money raised would win the mirror ball trophy. That participant was Ashton Meeks.
Margie Couvillon walked in wearing a black shirt, ripped black pants, a backward sparkling gold hat, gold Nike shoes and a gold dollar-sign chain around her neck. She danced to a mashup of “U Can’t Touch This,” “Apache” and “24K Magic,” using a chair as her prop.
She was met with cheers, applause and praise from the judges as she finished.
“I felt like it went great,” Couvillon said. “I was very nervous, to be honest. But once I got out there and the music started playing, it wasn’t so bad.”
Before the night began, the dancers had raised more than $171,000 altogether for Center Point, Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy and Rape Response Inc. Lona Pope was in the lead with $28,642. Meeks was close behind with $25,410 while Brooke Morters had raised $21,525.
“She literally has been nothing but easy to work with,” said Alex Smooth, Pope’s professional dance partner. “I have never been treated as well as Lona has treated me.”
“I’m a little jittery, but the time has come to do it,” Pope said before she made her way to the dance floor. “I’ve talked about it for three months, so I’m ready to make it happen.”
Meeks said she had a lot of help from her grandparents, who have lived in Gainesville for quite a while, when it came to fundraising. She even reached out to family who lives in Idaho for help, sent letters and asked friends from around town to support her.
“We’ve just had fun, which was really my objective apart from helping these organizations,” Meeks said. “I really just wanted to have a really good time.”
It was hard for the dancers not to have a good time, surrounded by at least 500 people, dancing under the spotlights and chandeliers on the wooden-tile dance floor at the country club.
As they danced the night away, Pope, Meeks, Morters, Couvillon, Al Satterfield, Andy Miller, Christy Wagner, John LaForge, Rustin Smith and Trey Greene, along with their professional dance partners, tried their best to impress the judges. Wagner earned the community star award with the best dance score of the night.
First-time judge Jan Ewing, director of theatre at North Hall High School, was impressed by it all.
“I feel like I’m really judging the dance versus who the person is,” Ewing said. “But I think they’re doing a great job. It’s interesting to see that they probably have a better understanding of how hard it is to dance and to do it in front of an audience and really move people.”