By JB Clark
TUPELO – Local celebrities entertained more than 1,200 people with their dance moves Saturday night at the BancorpSouth Arena while raising money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi.
In the eighth year of the annual fundraiser, attendance and donations were up.
Before the dancing started and the silent auction was decided, more than $191,000 had already been contributed to the organization. The night brought in $244,601, not including the silent auction.
Evie Boyd, marketing director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of North Mississippi, said last year’s attendance was 850 with a total fundraising of $176,000.
George Stone, owner of Hands-On Touch Salon, said he decided to participate in the fundraiser by dancing because of the good he saw it doing in the young people of Tupelo.
“I was seeing a lot of young people that were in unfortunate situations,” Stone said. “I saw they needed more resources than they had at home and I saw where the Boys and Girls Club could help them and that’s what made me get out of my comfort zone and do this.”
Saturday was Stone’s first time to dance in front of an audience but after more than 25 hours of dance lessons, he said he wasn’t too nervous before the show about his Tango.
“I’m just taking very deep breaths,” he said.
Emily Leonard, WTVA anchor, has danced before, but not like she did Saturday.
“I’ve done tap, jazz and ballet but I’ve never done ballroom dancing,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve performed in front of this many people.”
She took lessons each week starting in April and upped her lessons to twice a week as Saturday drew closer.
“They help so many kids in Northeast Mississippi in all their different areas and I wanted to give my support and try to raise as much money as I can for such a great organization,” she said.
Each of the 11 dancers was paired up with a professional instructor from The Dance Studio in Tupelo.
The 11 celebrity dancers represented each of the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi clubhouses in Tupelo, Oxford, New Albany and Ripley.
FIRST PLACE: Emily Leonard
SECOND PLACE: KC Caldwell Grist
THIRD PLACE: Amanda Hayden
FIRST PLACE: Laquita Wilkerson – $46,462
SECOND PLACE: Peggy Phillips – $37,502
THIRD PLACE: Amanda Hayden – $24,188
$244,601, before silent auction