But as big as Merkel thought the event, which took place Saturday night at Dixie Chopper Business Center in Greencastle, was going to be, the reality ended up shattering all expectations.
Between ticket sales, 50-50 raffle ticket sales and the $16,000 raised by the twelve local "stars" who danced at the event, the money raised for PCYDC stood at $25,000 Saturday night.
The money from silent auction that was held hadn't been counted yet, so more funds will be coming in.
"This was just beyond our wildest dreams," a breathless, teary-eyed Merkel said at the close of the fundraiser. "The thing now is, what are we going to do next year to top this year? We've set the bar so high."
Event co-organizer Patti Harmless, director of Putnam County's Court Appointed Special Advocate program, agreed.
"The biggest thing is, all of this has just been so much fun," she said.
After all the competitors and their professional partners strutted their stuff on the dance floor, scores were given by the judges -- Putnam County Senior Judge Diana LaViolette, Putnam County Circuit Court Judge Matt Headley and Putnam County Superior Court Judge Denny Bridges.
Cloverdale High School Assistant Principal Stacey Baugh, who was paired with Cloverdale Elementary first grade teacher and dancer Brad Sandy, was named the Dancing With the Putnam County Stars champion. Baugh and Sandy performed a rollicking swing number set to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Baugh and Sandy were one of four couples to receive a perfect score from the judges.
Baugh said she and Sandy tweaked their routine, which was choreographed by Sandy's wife Lita, practically up until the very end.
"We started the first week in February," Baugh said. "At first we were just going to do a two-minute routine, but then we'd be like, 'OK, we can add to it,' or 'OK. we can finish the song.' We were changing it right up until Thursday."
For Baugh, the fact that Dancing With the Putnam County Stars benefitted the PCYDC made it extra special.
"This was such a great event and it's great that it raised so much money for the Youth Development Commission," Baugh said. "In my job, they help me out so much with their programs, and it feels so good that I was able to do something to help give something back to them."
Murray and Terry also received a perfect score for their dance. All three judges commented on how sensual the number was -- Bridges wondered if the police should be called and told what the mayor was up to.
"We don't need to call the police department, we need to call the fire department," Headley said.
Murray said performing such as intimate dance with a man who wasn't her husband was quite an experience.
"It was ... different," she said thoughtfully.
The other two perfect scores were earned by former DePauw football coach Nick Mourouzis and partner Colleen Muir, a DePauw freshman (the oldest and youngest participants in the event), who performed a cha cha, and North Putnam Middle School teacher Jana Brothers and her partner, competitive swing dancer Tim Tillotson, who performed a West Coast swing dance.
The ties in scoring were broken by the judges' ratings for the contestants in areas such as poise, personality and costumes. Baugh edged Murray by one point.
Rounding out the slate of dancers were ResCare Residential development director Beau Battin and his partner, Tara Gardner, owner and operator of Greencastle's Dance Workshop, who kicked off the event with their hustle; Greater Greencastle Chamber of Commerce executive director Tammy Amor, who performed a cha cha with award-winning dancer and DePauw University kinesiology major Kyle Booher; Rick Alexander, human resources manager for Wal-Mart Distribution, who was paired with Greencastle School of Ballroom Dance owner Stephanie Neeper and performed a samba; Gail Smith, owner of Greencastle's Almost Home restaurant, who was paired with Sandy and performed a foxtrot; Greencastle Community Foundation executive director Elaine Peck (who received raves from the judges on her black beaded evening gown), who performed a nightclub two-step with Tillotson; local attorney Jim Ensley and his partner, North Putnam Middle School teacher and former DePauw cheerleader Jessyca South, who performed a hip-hop routine; South Putnam Junior-Senior High School counselor, who was paired with professional belly dancer Katie Wallace and performed an East Coast swing routine; and Greencastle Middle School teacher Mike VanRensselaer, whose merengue with partner Neeper was the final dance of the night.
Merkel applauded the dedication and hard work of all the dancers.
"You're all winners in our book, and you know that," she said.
Alexander was the contestant honored as the event's Fundraiser Extraordinaire for garnering $4,587.18 in donations.
"There are people you need in this world and who you grow attached to in a very short period of time," Merkel said. "Rick is one of those people."
Runners-up for the top fundraiser designation were Battin and Mourouzis.
Emcees for the evening were Eric Bernsee and Jinsie Bingham. Music was provided by Fig's Folly's and Sounds Unlimited.
Platinum sponsor for the event was Dave Murray and Associates. Gold sponsor was Wal-Mart Distribution, and bronze sponsors were Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, North Salem State Bank of Greencastle and McDonald's (Jedele Enterprises).