By Joni Harbin
It began as many ambitious projects do: a group of enthusiastic, hopeful people with good intentions took a great idea suggested by a community leader who had seen it done elsewhere, rolled up their sleeves, and flat ran with it. They spent months planning and plotting, drawing on various banks of talent and generosity as they put together a show that they thought might entertain and impress the audience. They whispered among themselves that they hoped it would break fundraising records in Gordon County, but they were afraid to say it out loud, much less in public. They hoped that people would come. None of them had any idea what would happen, but when GEM Theatre’s box office opened for ticket sales that first cold Sunday, folks were lined up down Wall Street. It sold out in just a few hours. When the curtain lifted for that first show in 2012, United Way of Gordon County thought they had a hit on their hands. Mohawk Presents Calhoun’s Dancing with the Stars looked like a winner. When the curtain dropped, there was no doubt about it. They had, in fact, broken fundraising history in Gordon County and they’ve kept doing it for a decade now. Everything has its time, though, and on April 16, the curtain will drop on United Way’s final show-- this time with the Calhoun-Gordon Community Foundation and Morning Pointe joining Mohawk as premier sponsors-- and it’s ending like it started. From beginning to end, United Way of Gordon County’s Dancing with the Stars will be known as a winner.
“Mohawk has been proud to serve as the title sponsor of Dancing with the Stars since the event’s inception,” said Robert Webb, Senior Director of Public Affairs and Corporate Communications with Mohawk Industries. “For a decade, the dancers have entertained audiences and raised over a million dollars to support the important work of United Way’s partner agencies. We salute all the individuals who have shared their talents – both as dancers and event volunteers – to make this such a successful fundraising event year after year.”
In honor of its closing, this year’s event will include special features such as a video featuring comments from members of the planning committee, a blooper reel, and a memorial tribute to Major Lars G. “Trey” Pierson, III. A driving force on the planning committee during the early years, Pierson danced in the contest twice and was a 2013 Judges’ Choice Winner. He died suddenly on Saturday, November 28, leaving his family heartbroken, the community stunned, and the Calhoun Jacket Nation reeling. Vickie Spence, former United Way Director, will present the Trey Pierson Spirit Award to the 2021 dancer considered by the committee to best reflect his spirit of commitment and enthusiasm.
United Way’s final presentations of the dance contest will take place on Thursday, April 15, and Friday, April 16 at the Calhoun Performing Arts Center. The event will feature six student teams and four adult teams, dancing in the same shows but competing in separate categories. The dance teams, listed alphabetically by the female partner’s first name, are Abby Crowe and Ben Bingham; Aubry Dorsey and Isaac Nance; Carly Curtis and Skylar Benham; Carson Glaze and Grant Glaze; Joy Nudd and Garrett Nudd; Kaylan Gaines and Addison Baker; Lily Stephens and Nate Stockman; Megan Wright and Christian Lewis; Raven Pasley and Ian King; and Suzanne Roberts with Tony Pyle.
First and second-place winners will be identified in two categories-Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice-for both the student and adult teams. People’s Choice winners are determined based on their fundraising successes. Judges’ Choice winners are determined based on the scores the contest judges give their dance performances. The adult teams winning in those categories will receive trophies and bragging rights. The student teams winning in those categories will receive trophies, bragging rights, and college scholarships. Each student on the first-place team in each category will receive a $1,000 scholarship and each student on the second-place team will receive a $750 scholarship. A panel of judges will be assembled from field professionals outside Gordon County.
“I have had the pleasure of working with the Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) Committee to help execute one show and plan two others since I joined United Way,” said Jennifer Latour, Executive Director of United Way of Gordon County. “Our 2020 show was marred with uncertainty due to the sudden appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were determined to hold the show, so we postponed. The show was then rescheduled to August, with numerous restrictions in place to protect those participating, volunteering and attending. Our volunteers and the committee were able to put on a safe and socially distanced show that raised over $59,000 for United Way. Now, with year 10 upon us, and COVID-19 still affecting local lives, we are more prepared on “how-to-plan-an-event-during-a-pandemic” and able to provide the safest fundraiser possible.”
The tenth year of Dancing with the Stars – presented by Mohawk Industries, the Calhoun-Gordon Community Foundation, and Morning Pointe of Calhoun- is a blend of everything accomplished in the past decade,” she continued. “We have a mixture of both adult and student dancers who are not just dancing but are raising money to support United Way. I also would like to personally thank our DWTS Committee. Thank you for sharing your talents with United Way and the Calhoun-Gordon County community. It is because of you that this event is what it is: a glamorous success. Thank you to the dream team: Andy Baxter, Kristy Brown, Jennie Coker, Bekah Kirby, Amy Parker, and Michelle Frix Ward. This may be our last dance, but the future is bright indeed!”
Tickets will go on sale to the public on Saturday, March 27. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, tickets will be sold on a first-come-first-serve basis. Sponsorships remain available for individuals or corporations wishing to support the fundraiser. Those arrangements may be made by contacting the United Way office at 706.602.5548, or online at https://www.gordoncountyunitedway.org.
United Way of Gordon County is a local 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving the Gordon County area. It works every day to advance the common good by investing in quality human service programs and by working with philanthropists, businesses, churches, local governments, and dedicated community volunteers to create lasting and measurable changes. United Way creates opportunities for all by focusing on the building blocks for a good life: Education, Basic Needs, and Health.