uac040412001.jpg Take the TV show Dancing with the Stars, add swords, a father/son rivalry and people being forced onto the stage by family members and you have the powerhouse fundraising event, Dancing with the Fayetteville Stars.

Good-hearted volunteers have hurled themselves into the spotlight to raise money for the Center for Economic Empowerment and Development, which is hosting Dancing with the Fayetteville Stars on Saturday, April 14 at the Crown Expo Center.

This fun, energetic event was voted best fundraiser in 2011 by Up & Coming Weekly readers and has been an instant hit for volunteers, guests and entertainers alike since its inception.

This year, 21 couples have volunteered countless hours, choreographing a dance, rehearsing to perfection, creating costumes, planning the special surprises and guaranteeing a great time for the audience. If there is any doubt guests would enjoy themselves, these couples promise not to leave you wanting.

Mother/son duo Tracy Huff, director of the Art of Self Defense Academy and her high school son, Stephen Huff, bring their fully charged energy to stage with the fun pop song “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO. The dance promises to be entertaining from the first beat to the last. “Be ready for the unexpected,” Tracy Huff said.

Looking for something a little less pop but still high action, maybe a little Asian fusion? Richard Martin, chief catalyst at International Business Fuel/Shifu Taijiquan and Deb Belles, owner of Reliable Signs and member of Shadow of the Fire dance troupe, are adding a little excitement to their dance through the use of swords. According to Martin, the people who know him best think it’s hilarious he’s dancing; but he added that Belles told him he had to do it. Luckily, Martin shares Belles’ love for the community and agreed to participate. They would both like to take the same thing away from the experience … all of their appendages. But don’t let the promise of flashy music and exciting theatrics take away from the amazing dancing. John Hodges, retired Hope Mills police chief and Army veteran is dancing with his dance instructor, Lacy Kraft. Kraft has a special place in her heart for military men since both her husband and her dance partner are military. Hodges and Kraft share a love of dance, having danced and competed together for years winning numerous awards. Kraft explained that dance is an extension of the soul. In the music, a dancer is transformed. Although Hodges enjoys more saucy dances like the rumba or tango; however, they decided to go with something a little less expected. They are ready to dazzle the audience with a fun, playful routine.

Max Mahlke, a retired pharmacist and Jimmy John’s franchise owner, was described as a “ freak of nature” by his partner Marcy. “I took that as a high compliment thinking it meant I had a lot of energy for and old man. But maybe she just meant I’m not very mature.” Mahlke said. Either way Mahlke is taking away new friends and the satisfaction of doing something that will help CEED.

The participants agree, beyond the fellowship they are most excited to assist CEED in the lease to home mission.

Nadine G. Miller-Bernard, physical education teacher in the Cumberland County Schools explained that as an immediate past president of the local alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, her organization is a “sisterhood called to serve, transforming lives, and impacting communities,” and it is her pleasure to participate and help fundraise for CEED. 04-04-12-dancing-with-stars.jpg

Jo Ann Ruff, business manager for Dr. J. Michael Ruff, Periodontics & Implants said, “I believe CEED is giving families a helping hand in our community and doing a great job.” Ruff is excited to dance for a good cause. “My family thinks it’s wonderful when I’m dancing and I’m not shopping, and my friends think dancing is a great way to stay young,” Ruff said.

Miles Norsworthy is attending school in Illinois this fall but not before he dances on stage with beautiful and talented women. Of course, he’s “happy to help out a good cause and to find the time to work on something more important than me.” Norsworthy doesn’t like the early mornings, but dancing is one of his favorite hobbies. “His mother has her own studio,” said Catherine “Cat” Bersh, his partner. She added that she is “thrilled to be using my talents to help the community and guarantees a professional routine that you would see on the show Dancing With the Stars.” While working hard to deliver that promise, she broke her finger in practice and had to be in a cast for the last three weeks. But that didn’t discourage her.

“It’s for a great cause and Sharon made me” is the reason Scott Epperson, retired police detective and professional Barney Fife impersonator/ actor signed up to participate in Dancing with the Fayetteville Stars. Participating in this event has his family thinking. “He’s a great entertainer but him dance?” Still, he’s not nervous a bit. “You should see some of the things I have done on stage, then again maybe not…” said Epperson. Whether he can dance or not, this entertainer is sure to put on a show.

When asked to participate, Jessica Elizabeth McCain, full-time student and model said, “Yes I’d love to. It’s more than helping a friend out, I’m dancing to give back to my community that I love and have grown up in.” McCain said the worst part of the experience has been finding a dress because they are all gorgeous.

“The hard work by the dancers, not only on their fabulous routines but by their fundraising efforts is what makes the Dancing with the Fayetteville Stars so successful and thankfully continues to grow each year,” said Teresa M. Dagaz, of CEED.

To date, the program has successfully helped 46 families become homeowners. With the money raised from the fundraiser, CEED hopes to rehabilitate and provide safe, affordable housing for families in need. The goal is to raise $160,000 at this year’s fundraiser.

People can vote for their favorite dancers by going to the www.ncceed. org and clicking on the Dancing with the Stars link that says VOTE. It will take you to a Facebook Page where folks can like CEED and see all of the dancers. People can continue to vote through the night of the event. It’s only $10 each to support your favorite dancer. All donations are tax deductible and all proceeds after expenses go directly to the Lease to Home program.

Photo, middle right: Local volunteers team up and dance to raise funds for the Center for Economic Empowerment and Development’s lease to home program. 


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