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Local 'celebrities' putting on dancing shoes for fundraiser

Monday, January 26, 2009

Participants in the first annual Dancing With the Putnam County Stars fundraiser include, from left, Eric Bernsee, Matt Headley, Mark Wildman, Diana LaViolette, Beau Battin, Jana Brothers, Nick Mourouzis, Sue Murray, Gail Smith, Jim Ensley, Stacey Baugh, Rick Alexander, Elaine Peck, Mike VanRensselaer, Jinsie Bingham and Denny Bridges. Not pictured is Tammy Amor.
Beau Battin admits he could hardly be considered a twinkle toes on the dance floor.

"My dancing skills are zero," he said.

Be that as it may, Battin, along with 11 other Putnam County "celebrities," will put on his dancing shoes April 4 to participate in the first annual Dancing with the Putnam County Stars, a fundraiser for the Putnam County Youth Development Commission.

The local event will closely follow the premise of the popular television show "Dancing with the Stars," which airs on ABC.

Battin said he has some extra incentive to do well in the competition.

"If I win, my wife has to take salsa lessons with me," he said.

The event will take place at Dixie Chopper Business Center from 6 to 9 p.m. The evening will begin with a social hour, buffet dinner, silent auction, 50-50 raffle and cash bar. The dancing competition will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Other competitors for the title will be Tammy Amor of the Greater Greencastle Chamber of Commerce; Stacey Baugh of Cloverdale Community Schools; Jana Brothers of North Putnam Community Schools; Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray; Putnam County Community Foundation executive director Elaine Peck; Gail Smith, owner of Greencastle's Almost Home; Rick Alexander of Wal-Mart Distribution; Greencastle attorney Jim Ensley; former DePauw University football coach Nick Mourouzis; Mike VanRennselaer of Greencastle Community Schools; and Mark Wildman of South Putnam Community Schools.

"The closest I ever thought I'd get to doing something like this was watching it on television," Alexander said.

Brothers said she also had very minimal dance experience.

"I've danced in front of my mirror for years," she said.

Murray said her husband Dave was adamantly against her participating at first.

"That's until he found out he didn't have to do it," she said.

Wildman said he is looking forward to the competition because of the fun factor.

"I assume it'll be a good time, because anytime someone talks to me about it they start laughing," he said with a chuckle.

Each contestant will be paired with a local dance professional to perform a simple routine that will last a maximum of two minutes. The dancer who gets the most points -- a combination of money raised before and during the event and the judges' scores -- will be the Dancing with the Putnam County Stars champion.

The event will be judged by actual Putnam County court judges Diana LaViolette, Matt Headley and Denny Bridges. Emcees will be Jinsie Bingham and Eric Bernsee. Jim Hardwick will act as the DJ.

"The buzz is really starting to build," said Linda Merkel, executive director of the PCYDC. "I'm really excited and so proud to be a part of this. Not only is it for a great cause, it's also going to be a lot of fun."

The first rehearsal for the contestants is set for Feb. 3. Dance instructors at Greencastle's Dance Workshop will evaluate contestants, decide who they should be paired with and begin working on routines, studio owner Tara Gardner said.

"This is going to be so much fun," Gardner said. "It's a wonderful, excellent idea."

Gardner said professional partners for the competition are still needed, particularly men.

"They don't have to be professionals," Gardner said. "We're just looking for people with any dance experience at all."

Martin's Emporium has also stepped up to help. The Greencastle business is dressing the contestants, as well as donating mirror ball trophies for the winner and runner-up.

Tickets for the event are $30 per person or $50 per couple.

Sponsorships for the event are available at several different levels. A bronze sponsorship is $300 and includes recognition in the event program; a silver sponsorship is $600 and includes a table for eight, the dinner and recognition in the program; a gold sponsorship is $800 and includes a premier table for eight, buffet dinner and recognition in program; and a platinum sponsorship is $1,000 and includes a premier table for eight, buffet dinner and cocktails and recognition in the event program and other media outlets.

The Putnam County Youth Development Commission is a non-profit organization that started in 1993 with the implementation of the Court Appointed Special Advocates program (which was launched by LaViolette). Over the years, PCYDC's services have expanded to include Coats for Kids, Thinking for a Change and the Putnam County Teen Court.

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What fun, and for a great cause. I hope they have oxygen on site. And a uniformed nurse. My money is on Bernsee, I've seem him dance.

-- Posted by localman on Mon, Jan 26, 2009, at 8:42 PM

It might be a great cause, but it's the same people every time there is an event to raise money. Mayor, chamber, dixie chopper, judges, lawyers husbands and so on. Do these people ever stay at home? Sounds like a chamber dinner!

-- Posted by whodouthinkur on Tue, Jan 27, 2009, at 8:44 AM

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