The inaugural Dancing with the Sandhills Stars fundraiser enthralled over 400 attendees and raised over $100,000 for Communities In Schools and Moore Buddies, the two major mentoring programs in Moore County. The event was held at the Pine Needles Resort on January 9, 2010.
After months of hard work, 19 dance couples competed at the event in front of a sold out crowd of 350 guests and an additional 50 volunteers. The dancers were notable local politicians, business owners, athletes and artists including Moore County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Susan Purser, Senator Harris Blake, Southern Pines Mayor Mike Haney, Moore County United Way Executive Director Linda Pearson, STAR 102.5FM radio celebrities Kristen Palmer and Rich Rushford and well-know musician Baxter Clement dancing with his wife Taylor.
Pine Needles Director of Golf Pat McGowan and local community leader Cathy Smith won the championship. Their high-energy dance to Donna Summerb s disco anthem b I Will Surviveb sent the crowd cheering for more. Smith and McGowan won by generating the most b votesb . Each vote was sold for $10.
Three additional couples rounded out the top four vote winners. Interior designer Susie Leader and Retired Air Force Colonel Nelson Neil jitterbugged to b Do You Love Meb . Political advocate George Little and his wife Wanda showed the crowd how a Southern Shag dance is really done and Dr. Susan Purser and Senator Harris Blake elegantly waltzed across the stage.
b The real winners tonight are the kids of Moore County,b said Chrisy Connelly, Executive Director of Moore Buddies, b The funds raised this evening will go to help the students who need it the most; those students who can benefit from the support of a caring adult mentor.b
Emcee, noted author and Pinestraw Magazine Managing Editor Jim Dodson, kept the crowd and dancers on their toes with his witty introductions of each dance couple. Color commentary was provided by three b judgesb , former Red Sox Manager Grady Little, Sandhills Community College President Dr. John Dempsey and Managing Editor of The Pilot Steve Bouser.
The audience clapped, sang along and voted for each couple while watching a broad variety of dance routines including waltzes, swing, shag, hip hop, jive, disco, modern, jazz, lindy, hustle, two-step and jitterbug. Dancers received complimentary choreography and lessons from Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Pinehurst. No matter where the audience was seated they had a prime view of the dancers from either the large raised stage or from one of two enormous Trinitron screens showing each couple as they performed. b There wasnb t a bad seat in the house,b said Tom Cruce Communities In Schools Board Member.
Dancersb ages spanned multiple decades with the youngest dancer being only 22 years old and the eldest at 84 years old. Age had no impact on the level of energy each dance couple brought to the event. Leader and Neil even promoted their combined 151 years of dance experience as one of the great reasons to vote for them.
After the winning couple was announced, all 40 dancers danced on the stage to Gloria Gaynorb s b Last Danceb . It was a perfect ending to an extraordinary evening, which some are already calling the best event to ever come to the Sandhills. b The event has raised much needed funds for mentoring programs in Moore County and raised the awareness of the importance of mentoring. It was a grand start to National Mentoring Month,b according to Andi Korte, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Moore County, b We are so fortunate to have such an active and generous community and one that truly understands why mentoring matters.b
According to event co-chairs, Mimi Beatty, Jackie Garris and Jane Jackson, the next Dancing With The Sandhills Stars will be an even more exciting and successful event. b We have already started our planning for the Second Annual Dancing With The Sandhills Stars,b said Garris.
The list of all dancers included District Attorney Maureen Krueger, Chief John Letteney, Dr. Susan Purser, Senator Harris Blake, Kristen Palmer, Rich Rushforth, Christopher Godfrey, Sherry Wood, Father John and Julie Tampa, Linda Pearson, Southern Pines Mayor Mike Haney, Patrick Coughlin, Patti Zoellner, Baxter and Taylor Clement, George and Wanda Little, Diana Turner-Forte, Stephen Later, Jeff and Severine Hutchins, Jack Nance, Roxanne Loepper, Ellen Pearsall, Charlie Jackson, Susie Leader, Nelson Neil, Dr. Jeff Kilpatrick, Juliet Eden Blanks, Larry and Cathy Hinton, Patrick McGowan, Cathy Smith, Ray Metzger, Karen Backall, Janeen Driscoll, Paul Harkness, Eve Avery and Jim Byrd.
Communities In Schools (CIS) provides in-school one-on-one mentoring for at-risk students in Moore County. 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 more information on CIS please call 910-295-1072 or visit their website www.moorebuddiesmentoring.com. For more information on Moore Buddies please call 910-400-5236.