It’s Show Time! Dance Like the Stars will hold their 14th annual event at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24 at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo. The Dance Like the Stars gala is the largest annual fundraising benefit in North Mississippi. The event, presented by Toyota Mississippi, raises money for the Boys and Girls Club. The affair features dance performances, a big band orchestra, buffet-style dinner, cash bar, and silent auction. The Boys and Girls Club ballroom dance team perform as well.
Representing Ripley is 2016 Mrs. Mississippi, Molly Lewellen. She pairs up with professional dancer, Andrew Davis, on the dance floor. Davis is senior instructor at The Dance Studio of Tupelo. Lewellen and Davis’ dance routine is a lively and uninhibited variation of a form of swing dance called The Jive. Lewellen and her dance partner have trained since the beginning of May.
“We started training the first week of May. We will end having 25 sessions completed at the end of our training. That’s one to two hours apiece,” said Lewellen. “We are doing a Jive dance, so there is a substantial amount of swinging and spinning. It requires a great deal of core strength. There are a lot of times that I am off my feet, and that requires a certain amount of strength. It looks so easy with the guy spinning the girl around, but she is actually the one really in control.”
After attending the event the last couple of years, Lewellen became interested in being involved with Dance Like the Stars.
“I have watched previous contestants – Shad Spight, Cheryl Bass, Nia Colom, and Natalie Bullard (Floyd) – perform and just thought it looked like so much fun. I was like, ‘if you ever need a dancer, I would love to do it.’ This year ended up being my year,” said Lewellen.
“Having a desire to help with the Boys and Girls Club in Ripley and attending the event the last three years made me want to be more involved in helping with the fundraiser,”
Lewellen recognizes the benefits of implementing after-school programs since she herself is a product of the programs. She remembers the positive impact that those programs had on her own life. She recalls being a little girl living far away from any family. Her mom, a single mother, looked to the after-school programs for a safe place for Lewellen to wait for her to get off work after school.
“I used to go to after-school programs when I was a child. My mom was a single mom, and we lived in Tennessee away from family. I remember every teacher, volunteer, assistant, and anybody that spent time with me in those different clubs and groups. That is why I think it is so important for people in the community to invest in and take care of children after school. It’s more special to the kids than one can imagine,” said Lewellen. Lewellen expressed that supporting the Boys and Girls Club by participating in Dance Like the Stars is her way of giving back.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of North Mississippi fills the gap between school and home by promoting a safe, welcoming, positive environment for kids and teens. The program promotes academic success and teaches good character and citizenship through community and service projects. The Boys and Girls Club staff and volunteer tutors provide help with homework and projects after school each day. Serving on the board for Ripley’s Boys and Girls Club are Mary Childs, Beverly Hankins and Trey Hankins.
“Most people don’t realize that our community does not support the club enough for it to operate on its own,” said Trey Hankins, Director of North Mississippi Boys and Girls Club. “We rely on money from the people of Tupelo to keep the doors open. For our club to be self-sufficient, it requires the whole community to chip in, and supporting Molly is a great way to do that. By giving to her fundraising efforts, folks can help us continue serving the kids of Tippah County, and at the same time, they get a great meal and amazing entertainment.”
A panel of judges will select a “Grand Champion” by the most money raised and a “Dance Champion” by the best routine. Toyota Mississippi has donated $20,000 to be split among the contestants. The minimum for each of the contestants to raise for the event is $7,500.
To donate on behalf of Ripley’s contestant, Molly Lewellen, and to help support the Boys and Girls Club, visit the website www.bgcnms.org. To purchase tickets for the event, go to www.bgcnmspayments.com. Dinner tickets are $50, and general admission is $20.
General admission tickets will also be available to purchase at the door.
Lewellen wants to dedicate her performance to the men and women who devote their time and energy to make sure children in our community have programs such as the Boys and Girls Club. “These people are touching lives more than they know, and many times it is a thankless job. My dance is dedicated to the ones who spend every day committed to making sure programs like the Boys and Girls Club succeed,” said Lewellen.
Lewellen and her husband, Sam, and two sons reside in Ripley. Lewellen attends Ripley First Baptist Church, and she is active in her community. She is president of the Ripley Main Street Board. She coaches two soccer teams and enjoys playing co-ed softball.