Couples Hit Dance Floor for Children

When Susie Leader and Nelson Neil hit the dance floor Saturday, Jan. 9, for the bDancing with the Sandhills Starsb fundraiser, they will be bringing years of experience at rocking their socks off b and they say they arenbt done yet. Leader and Neil, along with 40 other Moore County celebrities, will put on their dancing shoes to benefit Communities In Schools of Moore County and Moore Buddies, the two major student mentoring programs in Moore County. bDancing with the Sandhills Stars,b a benefit patterned after the popular TV show, will take place at the Pine Needles Hospitality Center. Each competing couple will gather votes leading up to the event with all proceeds benefiting the two local nonprofit mentoring programs. Neil, nicknamed bSilver Fox Nelson,b likes a challenge. A retired Air Force colonel, he flew 33 planes in three wars with two tours of duty in Vietnam. One of his greatest undertakings was flying a big twin engine airplane and landing a U.S. scientific survey team on the ice near the North Pole, plus resupplying and removing the team. Meanwhile, at a close distance, a Russian survey team was doing the same thing. An 11-handicap, the charming and witty Neil says he loves competing on the dance floor and the golf course. A talented interior designer and an expert who knows the power of attention to details, bSassy Chasse Susieb (a name given to her by her husband) is everybodybs favorite cheerleader in any of the multiple activities she pursues. She tackles any task or assignment with the vigor of a new adventure. She is an ardent gardener, and, she says, loves her husband, her children and grandchildren, animals, skiing, tennis, golf, long walks and dancing. Leader says that over 50 years ago she and her partner, bSilver Fox Nelson,b were the generation that started the rock bnb roll revolution, and they are still rocking and rolling. Wanda and George Little are very capable of handling any contest, including bDancing with the Sandhills Stars.b A native of Pinehurst, George Little could write the insiderbs guide to politics, as he truly understands the game and the process. With that wellspring of knowledge also comes a thorough understanding of the value of education, honed through many years on the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees. Grace and a good sense of humor are admirable qualities for anyone, and Wanda Little has an abundance of both, as well as a background in education. As a fourth-grade teacher and an assistant principal from Charlotte, she was nominated two times to the bWhobs Who Among American Teachers.b With less than 2 percent of all teachers nominated twice, this is evidence of her high standard of achievement and the respect paid to her by her peers. In true Southern form, the Littles will be shaking up the ballroom with their shag dancing. Among the couples competing against the Littles and the team of Leader and Neil are Janeen Driscoll and Paul Harkness, along with Eve Avery and Jim Byrd. Avery, owner of the stylish Eve Avery Clothing Boutique in Southern Pines, feels very strongly about supporting the areabs businesses and organizations. Avery says that she is thrilled to be giving back to the community once again by participating in Dancing with the Sandhills Stars. Averybs dance partner, Jim bThe Byrdmanb Byrd, Moore County executive for Crescent State Bank, is known for his keen attention to detail, expertise in finance and agility on the football field. Byrd is certain to have a well thought out game plan for this competition. He has been in training for this dance contest for a long time and actually has won one before. Never mind, he says, that it was in elementary school and involved a hula hoop. He wonders if that will help his chances with this competition. Currently in charge of communications and public relations for Pinehurst Resort, Janeen Driscoll would rather readers know her as a passionate Steelers fan from Pittsburgh, Pa. b with black and gold in her blood. She has lived in Southern Pines for the past seven years and has actively promoted her community not only in her own profession, but as a board member for several local nonprofit organizations. A gymnast and cheerleader in her younger years, she has no dancing experience but feels her job in public relations has given her quick feet in any situation, including this one. Driscollbs partner, Paul Harkness, is a jeweler and co-owner of Hawkins and Harkness Fine Jewelry in Southern Pines. Harkness recognizes gems of great quality, among them his wife, Kat, who is a ballerina, graduate gemologist and appraiser. They have lived in the area for 26 years, and they have three children as well as two grandchildren. He likes kicking back, so to speak, with a local group playing drums. Communities In Schools (CIS) provides in-school one-on-one mentoring for at-risk students in Moore County. Similarly, Moore Buddies uses mentoring as an intervention tool for youth who are at risk of not reaching their full potential for various reasons. Both organizations share the common goal of helping a child succeed through a relationship with a caring adult. For a complete listing of the participating dancers and their profiles, or to purchase tickets and cast a vote, visit For information, call (910) 295-1072.