Dancing Stars accept spotlight to fight Alzheimer's

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Local stars are putting on their dancing shoes to raise money to help those with Alzheimer’s disease.

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Daniel Blanton Jr. (Georgia Bank and Trust) and Amanda Hamilton  ANDERSON PHOTO/SPECIAL
ANDERSON PHOTO/SPECIAL
Daniel Blanton Jr. (Georgia Bank and Trust) and Amanda Hamilton

The third annual Dancing Stars of Augusta will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 7, at Bell Auditorium. Balcony seats are $25, and individual tickets are $100 (only two guaranteed seats together).

To purchase tickets, call the Alzheimer’s Association’s office at (706) 860-4599 or visit dancing
starsofaugusta.com.

The fundraiser returns with its traditional format – 10 local stars paired with 10 professional dancers – with the goal of raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter.

Last year, Dancing Stars of Augusta raised $148,000 for the cause. This year, Dee Dee Kurilla, the regional development director for the association’s Augusta Regional Office, would like to raise $175,000.

The competition’s dancing stars are even more ambitious – they want to raise $200,000 to top the amount raised by the Alzheimer’s Association in Macon.

“This whole event is about cultivating awareness and people who want to get involved in our cause,” Kurilla said. “It’s about raising money for us to continue what we do in the community. Everything that we do in this community – every program, every service – is free. We’re the starting point for many people who get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We’re here to help families get connected with resources.”

The local chapter serves 17 counties and operates about 20 programs, including support groups. In the Augusta area, 14,000 people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The association does not receive state or federal funding, she said.

The dancing stars will compete for two awards: the People’s Choice Award for the top fundraiser and the Judges’ Choice Award for the top dancer of the evening.

This year, Dancing Stars of Augusta has a new ballroom partner, Ballroom in Motion, which has provided free dance lessons and free costumes for all participants.

Judges for the dance competition are Barbara Coleman, professor at Georgia Regents University; Austin Rhodes, local radio host and former Dancing Stars of Augusta participant; and Ron Jones, the owner of Columbia County Ballet.

The night also will include performances by Terra Carroll, the Judges’ Choice winner during the competition’s inaugural year who will dance the salsa with Eduardo Diaz, the owner of A&E Dance Studio; and Ballroom in Motion dancers who will perform the Ballroom Blitz.

Dancing star Daniel Blanton Jr. chose to get involved because the cause hits close to home. His grandmother has been diagnosed with dementia, and his wife’s grandfather suffered from dementia and died last year.

“I was apprehensive at first about asking people for money for the Alzheimer’s Association, but when I bring up that I’m doing Dancing Stars of Augusta for Alz­heimer’s, people want to tell me their experience,” he said. I’ve learned so much about how many people it really affects.”

Blanton said he wants to raise awareness about the organization and the services that it offers.

Each dancing star was given an individual goal of raising $10,000, but Blanton has exceeded expectations. So far, he has raised nearly $30,000 with the assistance of his wife and a few friends who helped him launch a fundraising campaign. He’s now helping other dancers in the contest achieve their fundraising goals, he said.

“It all goes to our local Alzheimer’s Association. I’d like to see everyone succeed in this,” he said.

Blanton will dance the tango with Amanda Hamilton, a recent high school graduate who teaches dance classes.

“She’s great. She’s just very bubbly and has a great personality. It’s just been a lot of fun practicing and trying to learn the steps,” Blanton said.

Blanton and his wife enjoy dancing at home, but this is his first formal dancing experience.

“I’ve been watching some of the people practice. It should be a great show,” Blanton said. “As much fun as we’re having with the dancing, this event is going to be a blast.”

The public can help by voting for dancers and making a donation at dancingstarsofaugusta.com.

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