TUPELO • After taking their routine to the virtual dance floor last year, this year’s Dance Like the Stars celebrity dancers will be back where they belong: on stage, in front of a crowd of cheering fans.
The 16th annual Dance Like the Stars will be held Aug. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the BancorpSouth Arena. Tickets are currently available for $50 each.
As always, the goal of the event is to raise money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi. This year’s celebrity dancers will rally to raise $210,000.
To help reach their goal, Toyota Mississippi has donated $20,000. Keith Thornberry, Senior Production Manager with Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, was on-hand during a Tuesday night event announcing this year’s celebrity dancers, held at Park Heights Restaurant in Tupelo, to present the nonprofit Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi with a check for the donation.
Even with fundraising starting a month later than normal, the celebrity dancers collectively have already raised approximately $99,000 prior to Toyota’s donation.
“It has just been amazing to us. It’s the dancers, but it’s also the people who are giving, that (are) contributing, all the reasons they are doing this. We are so thankful,” BGCNMS Chief Professional Officer Zell Long said during Tuesday night’s event.
This year’s celebrity dancers are Miriam Anderson of Ripley, Alli Hodges of New Albany, Nancy Maria Balch of Oxford. Also competing are Tupelo celebrities Brooke Burleson, Dr. Laura Marion, Trish McCluney, Victor McMillan, Daniella Oropeza, Dr. Gabe Rulewiz, Demetra Sherer and Joe Washington. The Dance Studio of Tupelo is owned by Rubye Del Harden. Professional instructors include Tammy Wilson, Andrew Davis, Benjamin Pryor, Gemi Moore and Sara Wood.
The local celebrities will learn a professional ballroom dance routine with a professional partner from the Dance Studio of Tupelo. The dancer who raises the most money will be named the event’s grand champion.
Hodges began training with her dance instructor, Pryor, three weeks ago. They plan to continue training until the day of the event.
The assistant teacher from New Albany, who will start a children’s theater company in New Albany, hopes to raise $10,000.
“It’s been going really well,” she said. “I’ve been learning a lot of new things and tips, and I’m so excited.”
Marion was the first dancer to raise over $20,000, with an anonymous donor contributing an additional $5,000 to the first dancer to reach the milestone. McMillan also raised $20,000 by Tuesday afternoon.
Fundraising will continue until the end of the Dance Like the Stars show. Each dancer is being challenged to beat 2013 Grand Champion Rhonda Hanby’s record of raising over $61,000.
The funds will benefit the over 2,000 youth the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi locations in Tupelo, Oxford, Ripley and New Albany serve annually. Last year’s event raised more than $260,000.
Since starting in 2006, nearly 150 community volunteers from Lee, Lafayette, Tippah, Chickasaw and Union counties have participated. More information can be found at www.bgcnms.org.