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Local celebrities face off in dance contest to raise money for 3 charities
Dancing for a Cause set for Aug. 26
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Anjana Freeman and dance instructor Jonathan Bryant practice at the North Geogia School of Music and Dance for the 2017 Dancing for a Cause. The event raises funds for three local charities.

Some call it the “best fundraiser in town.”

The fourth annual Dancing for a Cause will bring dinner, dancing and competition to the Chattahoochee Country Club on Aug. 26 as 10 local “celebrities” vie for the coveted Mirror Ball .

The event, which begins with dinner at 7 p.m. and the show following at 8 p.m., is a fundraiser for three local charities: Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy, Center Point and Rape Response Inc.

Part of the show includes a time when those attending can take to the dance floor.

“It is the best fundraiser in town; everyone who comes will tell you that,” said Barbara Hicks, director of program development for Center Point and one of the organizers for the event. “We’re supporting three great agencies. We’re supporting 10 unbelievable local celebrities who have so graciously donated their time and their talent and are so fun-loving. It’s just fun. It is a party.”

The “celebrities” have been paired with professional dancers by Justin Holland, owner and studio director of the  Northeast Georgia School of Music and Dance in Gainesville.

“We pull a lot of folks from Atlanta; some of them are our instructors as well,” Holland said. “They’ve done a lot of professional work. We hire them based on what they can do. Then we look and see who we have celebrity wise and who our pros are and some of the ideas that the celebrities have about the kind of styles that they like. I partner them up.”

In addition to competing on the dance floor, the celebrities also compete in their efforts to raise money for the charities. Dorothy Shinafelt, executive director of the Alliance for Literacy and an organizer for the event, said the competitor who receives the highest dance scores from the judges receives the Community Star. The Mirror Ball  goes to the dancer who has the best combination of dance scores and fundraising.

The celebrities competing in this year’s show are:

  • Danita Hamilton, who retired 10 years ago from the hospitality industry and is now a yoga instructor
  • Lori DeLong, a hairstylist for the past 28 years
  • Counte Cooley, a local business owner
  • Anjana Freeman, a mental health counselor for Rape Response
  • Katie Nordholz, a nurse anesthetist in Gainesville
  • Lynn Weber, a former pediatric intensive care nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and cancer survivor
  • Michael Callahan, an ear, nose and throat surgeon
  • Lee Koontz, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville
  • Joe Dix, a teacher and basketball coach at East Hall High School
  • Charlie Miller, a recent graduate of Kennesaw State University who now works for Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency

Miller, who has cerebral palsy and two other disabilities, will be competing in the dance competition from a wheelchair but said it will not slow him down.

“I am the one known for getting myself into some crazy situations,” Miller said. “I do not let my wheelchair hold me back at all. I love to dance; I love to hang out. I have no rhythm at all, but they are working with me to help me as well, so maybe I’ll get some better moves.”

He said he learned about the competition after a friend saw him dancing at his brother’s wedding and recommended him for Dancing for a Cause.

“When they asked me, I didn’t even hesitate. I said, ‘I would love to be there,’” he said. “It’s been a long journey, but it’s been a fun one as well. I’ve made some really good friends around the community, and I’m glad I’ve been able to raise some money for the community as well.”

As a therapist with Rape Response, Freeman said she has “a personal connection to where that money goes.”

“I’m a therapist, so that is very, very close to my heart,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons that this such an honor for me. I’m willing to do just about anything to make sure they get their services.”

She said she is excited about the competition.

“I’m just looking forward to just having a really good time, and I am hoping that the organizations will make a lot of money,” Freeman said. “The dancing, I take it seriously, but I don’t take myself too seriously, so I’m not real nervous about that. The fundraising is the part I’m having a hard time with. I’m not a good fundraiser.”

Weber said she thinks it is “kind of funny” that she is called a celebrity in the competition.

“I don’t look at myself as a celebrity,” she said. “I’m a cancer survivor and a mom of three, and the last thing I’ve ever thought of myself is a celebrity. I’m just down to earth, a simple girl.

“I got into (the competition) because I like to dance,” Weber added. “I also like to help; I’m very big into fundraising. For me, it just means a lot to help people. To reach out and help and come together for a great cause is what I’m about.”

DeLong said she got into the competition after Kent Tench, who won the competition in 2015, “volunteered me.” She will be doing a dance to a combination of two Michael Jackson songs: “Slave to the Rhythm” and “Billie Jean.”

“It’s the biggest event in Gainesville in my opinion,” she said. “It’s a good time, raising money for three local charities. It’s a great cause and lots of fun for everyone involved.”

The event is sold out, but there is a waiting list and opportunities to donate on the webpage:  www.dancehallcounty.com.

Dancing for a Cause
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 26
Where: Chattahoochee Country Club, 3000 Club Drive, Gainesville
How much: Sold out, but there is a waitlist
More info: dancehallcounty.com

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