You might have seen “Dancing with the Stars” on TV, but there’s only one place you can find Hall County celebrities dancing to a mix of their favorite tunes” the Annual Dancing for a Cause.
Held Saturday at the Chattahoochee Country Club, the third annual event featured 10 local celebrities who showcased their skills on the dance floor, vying for a chance to claim the winner’s spot while raising funds for three local charities.
“It’s the best event of the year,” says Dorothy Shinafelt, director of Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy, one of the three agencies benefiting from the event.
The agencies supported — Alliance for Literacy, Center Point and Rape Response — will split the proceeds. Last year’s dance-off raised more than $140,000 for the agencies.
At the end of the night, Sam Couvillon was picked as the Community Star and Brooke Kalinauskas was winner of the Mirror Ball Trophy. The event raised $175,000 for the three agencies.
Shinafelt said the event came together when the nonprofits had to restructure the way they were funded. She said events like Dancing for a Cause are vital for small organizations that rely on donations. To function correctly, “you need to have access to unrestricted funds” to allow for matching grants and general services, she said.
By 7 p.m. Saturday, event emcee Bill Coates announced to the crowd that donations had reached $122,000, but that the goal of $150,000 could still be reached. Throughout the night, donation boxes were available for guests to slip cash into.
Two of the top donors, LeTrell Simpson and Scott McGarity, stated that they could not think of a better way to donate their money.
“It’s a fun fundraiser,” McGarity said. “When you think about the three agencies that this money goes to, you know that it’s a great cause.”
Barbara Hicks, a member of Center Point, said the yearly success of the event is due in large part to the friends and family members of past year’s participants who learn about the event and are excited to join in.
Brett Mercer, one of the contestants at Saturday’s event, is a great example of what Hicks proposed.
“I came to it last year and liked what I saw,” Mercer said. “So when they asked me to compete I was like, ‘Hell yeah!’”
Mercer explained that though he was confident in his skills and had received the 10 hours of dance instruction, he quickly learned that he was in for some tough competition.
“Its not as easy as it looks,” he quipped.
But despite his misgivings, Mercer and all of the contestants acquitted themselves well, most receiving scores of 9 and 10 from the judges.
The highlight of the evening was a playful “Wizard of Oz” themed dance from Liz Coates, and a lively jazzy number from Gainesville City Council member Sam Couvillon, who did a jumping toe touch and a back handspring to the crowd’s surprise and applause.