Tupelo • The 14th annual Dance Like the Stars event at the BancorpSouth Arena welcomed another year of success. The ten local celebrities who raised a grand total of $224,740 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of North Mississippi, which was presented by Toyota Mississippi.
Boys and Girls Clubs of North Mississippi Director of Marketing & Special Events Lucia Randle said this year, she was interested in seeing the different kinds of reaches each contestant had, as they came from different backgrounds and had different ties to the area. Several contestants were representing Tupelo, but Oxford, New Albany and Ripley were also represented.
The Grand Champion Award went to Tyler Camp, who raised $41,602. He also won second place in the Judge’s Choice Award. Camp, who is special assistant to the president at Itawamba Community College and was the 2019 Itawamba County Ambassador of the Year, said winning both awards were a shock, but was thankful for his partner, Gemi Moore and Andrew Davis, for making the experience phenomenal, and to his fellow competitors for helping raise over $220,000 dollars.
“I’m so proud of my teammates in the 2019 class of Dance Like the Stars group. We made a difference,” Camp said.
Runner-ups for Grand Champion include second place winner Molly Lewellen, who raised $28,754, and Mindy Prewitt, who raised $27,254. Before the event, Lewellen said she was initially nervous about fundraising more than preparing for the event, as she didn’t want to let the organization down.
“I am hoping to be more involved with the Boys and Girls Club consistently after this, and not just be one and done,” Lewellen said.
The Judge’s Choice winner was former Ole Miss Rebels pitcher and current associate director of development for the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation Brady Bramlett, who impressed the judges with a lift that they said was very physical and hard but which he made look easy. Bramlett is ecstatic about participating in the event, helping the Boys and Girls Club surpass a fundraising goal of $200,000 and learning to be confident in dance presentation.
“I might even keep dancing; I loved it that much,” Bramlett said.
Third place Judge’s Choice was Lauren McElwain, who said while it was a challenge trying to practice while also meeting her fundraising goal, she was glad to be involved. A Tupelo Public School speech-language pathologist, McElwain was inspired to participate because of a love of dance and the children she works with.
“I work with some children who benefit from the Boys and Girls Clubs, so it absolutely was for them. I saw their faces in my mind throughout this whole process,” McElwain said.
Other contestants include Joel Young, J. Pullman, Rashni Barath, Keith Thornberry and Sylvia Blanchard.Thornberry said he was most surprised by how close everyone became. A self-described introvert, Thornberry said the experience opened him up to trying new things.
“I want to be able to be more open to stuff outside of the box and be more outgoing,” Thornberry said.
For WTVA Meteorologist Young, participating in the event meant taking on a new role in the event. Young had been an emcee for Dance Like the Stars for three years before becoming a contestant.
“I decided that one year, I would finally do it, and someone asked me and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I didn’t hesitate about it,” Young said. “I want other kids to have the same opportunities I did when I was growing up, and so this is a great organization that helps that happen.”
Pullman, the owner/operator of Mission Rehabilitation of New Albany, had a personal connection “Rebel Yell,” the song he and partner Moore danced to. The night’s emcees, Katrina Berry, Allie Martin and Greg Pickle, shared how Pullman used the song to help him during his own recovery from a coma. Pullman thanked New Albany Clubhouse Director Marquel Conner for inspiring him to get involved and said he was glad to be able to do volunteer work.
“It was a great experience. I’m glad I did it. I hoped I brought attention and donations to the Boys and Girls club,” Pullman said.
Randle said this year’s show was one of the best shows she’s ever seen. This year, the audience seemed especially engaged, as several in the audience could be seen holding giant signs of Camp’s face and people remained jubilent throughout the night.
“It makes us feel so good about what we’re doing and that people are supporting us and enjoying themselves at a fun event,” Randle said.
The event had over 50 sponsors and featured ballroom legend Ron Montez, Senior Instructor at the Dance Studio of Tupelo Robbie Greenwood and Asheville, North Carolina certified professional dance instructor of ballroom dance BJ Harden Jones.