08/12/10 — Dancers on tap for education fundraiser

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Dancers on tap for education fundraiser

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 12, 2010 1:46 PM

The Wayne Education Network, which advanced the annual "Extreme BEE" fundraiser to help local teachers, will launch an even splashier effort to bolster its mini-grant program this spring, in the form of "Dancing with the Wayne County Stars."

At its council meeting Wednesday, Dr. Debbie Grady was given the go-ahead to chair the committee for the 2011 gala event.

"This has been a dream of mine for a couple of years now," she told the group before sharing findings from her preliminary research. "This is an idea that has really taken off since the TV show 'Dancing with the Stars' has been on."

The network had been seeking a second fundraiser to enhance the spelling bee's efforts for teacher mini-grants and support of other educational projects.

The Extreme BEE has raised more than $132,000 since it was instituted, council member Ken Derksen said.

Mrs. Grady said that similar "Dancing with the Stars"-type programs have the potential to raise even more money, and in a shorter period of time.

She said Brunswick County Community College Foundation has used such an event as a fundraiser for the past three years, raising $280,000 this year and $330,000 last year.

"Communities in Schools in Lee County did it and raised $58,000 the first year," council member Sudie Davis said.

"I have researched the ones that have done it and within the event, besides charging (admission) there are also going to be other activities going on," Mrs. Grady said. Among the prospects could be a fee for a pre-event, online voting, raffles and ways to contribute beyond ticket sales.

Most importantly, she said, such an event promises to gather far-reaching support.

"It will involve almost the whole community and our outlying communities," she said. "It will help us to be out there in the public and to be more promoted and people will be more aware of what we're involved in."

Mrs. Grady said before seeking the group's approval to launch such an idea, she did her homework to make sure it was feasible.

"Top Hat Ballroom has agreed to provide the professional dancers and choreographers. They'll practice and provide studio time free with local 'stars,'" she said. "We're really excited and they're excited."

The "stars," she went on to explain, would be local celebrities and dignitaries -- from elected officials to prominent business and civic leaders.

They would be paired with a Top Hat dancer, Mrs. Grady said, and choreography would be adapted to the ability of each person.

"We may bring in other professional dancers from the area who have studios. Also, we have to determine some rules and guidelines for competition, choreography and practice times."

There are a number of ways the effort can be coordinated and implemented, she said. One suggestion she offered was to have a panel of judges at the event, with the possibility of also doing online voting in advance, for a fee.

"There are several ways that the voting will be tallied," she said.

"It's like the Spelling Bee, the regular rules do not apply," said Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent and member of the council.

It will take much work and many hands to accomplish, but Mrs. Grady said she is confident it could be done by a target date of March or April.

"I have been researching this for two years, waiting for somebody to say, 'Let's do this.' It's a lot to do, but we can do it," she said.