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Recognize these faces? They’ll be taking over the dance floor at 2022 Dancing for a Cause
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Dancing For A Cause participants and administration met Tuesday, April 19, 2022, at the home of John and Jane Hemmer to reveal the 10 local celebrity dancers. - photo by Scott Rogers

Sheetal Mangalat has worn many shoes: those of a dancer, a pediatric hospitalist and now, a stay-at-home mother of three. 

She’ll soon be dusting off the former, however, as she prepares to compete in Gainesville-Hall County’s Dancing for a Cause fundraiser, which returns this fall.

“I’ve put them away for a little while, so when this opportunity came up, it was a fun opportunity to dust off some dance shoes and also raise money — and get in shape, that’s always a bonus,” she said.

Jointly hosted by nonprofits Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy, Center Point and Rape Response Inc., Dancing for a Cause has been an annual tradition since 2014, with the exception of a two-year sabbatical owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joining Mangalat on the dance floor are Katie Allen, Callie Hughs, Jason Dunckel, Robert Jones, Jamey Prickett, Wendy Fountain, Mark Linkesh, David Smith and Tracy Troutman. 

The event is planned for 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville.

Leading up to the night they strut their stuff on the dance floor, the contestants will do their part to raise money via raffles and fundraising events. All of the funds will go to support Center Point, Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy and Rape Response Inc.

Their fundraising efforts, paired with the judges’ scores of their performances, will determine the contestants’ shot at winning this year’s competition and the Mirror Ball trophy.

“The three charities that we’re raising money for, I just love that they all use education as a platform for advocacy — that’s really important to me,” Mangalat said. “I’m glad to be doing something fun that can benefit so many lives."

In 2019, the event raised upward of $300,000 — the highest amount in Dancing for a Cause history, though Rape Response Executive Director Jeanne Buffington said it came as no surprise.

“Each year, the record has been broken,” she said. “We live in the most philanthropic community — so supportive of many nonprofits, they’re just the most generous, caring group.”

While raising money, contestants will also receive 10 hours of lessons from professional dancers — no more, no less.

Well acquainted with crowds flocking to gymnasiums and auditoriums for the sake of the performing arts, Managalat is trained in Indian folk and Bollywood dancing — but she’s keeping her moves “under wraps” until the big night.

 “I’m not sure how that will make it into my routine, but we’ll figure out a way,” she said. “The dance is going to be a blast — I’m just ready to get out there and have a good time.”

Contestant Callie Hughs is well-versed in ballet, jazz, musical theater and competitive cheerleading — passions from her school days that she’s eager to put to use again.

“I said yes (to Dancing for a Cause) immediately,” Hughs said. “I have three small children, so I feel like there’s not a lot that I can really do at this time … for the community, so I feel like this is a really good way for me to give back.” 

Meanwhile, contestants Jason Dunckel and Mark Linkesh come to the dance floor with “zero” experience, though neither one of them feel particularly nervous about performing in front of 400-500 spectators.

Linkesh is competing to honor his late mother-in-law Jean Hothem, a loyal attendee and supporter of Dancing for a Cause since the event’s inception.

“That’s the only reason I’m doing it,” Linkesh said, adding that hopes he’ll be performing a slow number on the dance floor.

According to Dorothy Shinafelt, executive director of Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy, the event was initially organized “out of necessity,” and has grown to become one of the area’s most popular fundraisers.

“Several years ago we came together with a need for some additional funds to help serve our community better; we brainstormed on all sorts of different things and this is what we came up with,” she said.

“We said, ‘I bet we could do something bigger together than we could ever pull off alone,” echoed Center Point Executive Director Barbara Fleming.

More information on Dancing for a Cause and this year’s contestants is available online.

Dancing for a Cause

What: Fundraiser benefiting three local nonprofits

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27

Where: Chattahoochee Country Club, 3000 Country Club Drive, Gainesville

Tickets and info: dancehallcounty.com