Dancing Like the Stars was a huge success! After months (or weeks in Blaise's case) of hard work, Barbara Gibbs, Donna Gregory, Blaise Harris, Don Schwenneker, and Sharon Tazewell took the stage with their partners David Cox, Stephanie Ferrell, Erin Smith, and Arthur Soroker from Arthur Murray Dance Studio at the Southern Women's Show. From the Tango to Thriller, the dancers strutted their stuff to a very appreciative audience.
The National Inclusion Project and the dancers showed up on television, the radio, and YouTube with many people becoming aware of our important mission. Based on the dancers enthusiasm for the Project, we raised over $11,000 easily eclipsing our previous DLTS totals.
Donna Gregory took a moment to recount her experience and give a "behind-the-scenes" peek:
From the moment Faye Parker asked me to be a “Dancing Like the Stars” contestant, I knew this was a project I wanted to support. I admire and respect the work and dedication of the National Inclusion Project, and I wanted to be a part of this exciting fundraising effort. Little did I know, I’d be “fun-raising," as well!
A few months before the competition, I was assigned a dance partner from DLTS’ new sponsor, Raleigh’s Arthur Murray dance studio. To my delight, my 6’5” instructor, David Cox, told me he could make a dancer out of this 50-year-old mother of four…even if it killed us in the process! Being nearly 5’10” myself, I knew he had a TALL challenge ahead of him, but he exceeded my dancing hopes and dreams in every way!
David was exceptionally patient and encouraging throughout the training process, choreographing a challenging, exciting routine we hoped would “wow” the crowd and judges. He even recruited fellow instructor (and contestant!) Erin Smith to help me with the finer points of dancing, including arm, hand and neck placement. I had no idea such an effortless-looking art form required tenacious attention to every detail!
Fortunately, I was able to arrange my schedule to accommodate the hour-long rehearsals, three days a week. We worked through typical new-dancer foot, neck and hip injuries to make sure our routine was show-ready, all the while mindful of the children we would be helping with our fundraising.
Early in the process, David and I agreed on a marketing strategy to spread the word about the National Inclusion Project, and to recruit donors to our team. We even named our duo “Team Tall Tango," to generate a little extra buzz. We printed postcards featuring our pictures on the front, with directions on how to donate on the back. We mailed those to strategic donor prospects and followed up with phone calls and in-person invitations to donate, when appropriate.
We also used social media to direct our friends and associates to our “YouTube” video, and to the donations page on the National Inclusion Project web site. As major donations started to arrive, we asked the NIP staff to forward donor information to us, so we could send a personal thank you to contributors. That also proved very effective. In our experience, the earlier the video is posted, the more likely on-line voters are to view it, and donate! Getting a little media exposure is a big plus, too, and Faye worked hard to secure radio and tv coverage for all the contestants.
We experienced a few wardrobe malfunctions, including a missing costume top, ill-fitting skirt and shoes that flipped off during dress rehearsal, but everything came together for the final performance. We found that we had bonded with the other contestants and even prayed as a group prior to the performance. Once the lights came up and the music started, we were ready to cheer for all the competitors, knowing we were all working toward the same goal: helping children. ALL children.
When we were named top fundraiser, we were thrilled that so many of our friends, neighbors, business associates and even strangers had joined Team Tall Tango in raising awareness about – and funds for — the National Inclusion Project. We had taken steps (and twirls and lunges and dips) toward making the world better for all of us, by making sure everyone is included. We couldn’t have been prouder!
Special thanks to the following:
- The supporters who participated in the National Inclusion Project booth all weekend
- Kitty Brandon for organizing the booth layout and schedule
- Faye Parker for organizing Dancing Like the Stars
- Arthur Murray Dance Studios and their dance instructors
- Joseph Callender, Barbara Gibbs, Donna Gregory, Blaise Harris, Don Schwennneker, Sharon Tazewell
See you in 2012!