Dancing with the Stars Fundraiser Yields Big Entertainment AND Funds!
Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte to Benefit the Pink House--which took place April 6 at Knight Theater to a sold-out house--has a lot going for it: excitement, glitz, fancy footwork AND an important cause.
When one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and more than 900 women are expected to be diagnosed in Mecklenburg County over the next year, the need for supportive care of women and men with breast cancer is significant. That's what we do at the Pink House--provide uplift, education and services to people with breast cancer.
And now, an additional thing this fundraiser has going for it is that it is one of the fastest-growing fundraising events in the city, having gone from an audience of 440 in 2016 to selling out the entire Knight Theater of 1100 seats. We raised a record $690,000, and donations continue to come in! That's roughly $250,000 more than last year's event and brings the total raised, before expenses, in the 3-year life of this event to $1.55 million!
The show is modelled after the popular Dancing with the Stars television show. Local stars, paired with professional dancers, each learn and perform a ballroom dance number that is scored by judges from the competitive dance world while audience members vote for their favorite star by making donations to Carolina Breast Friends. Each dollar donated is equivalent to one vote. WBTV's Molly Grantham and NFL star DeAngelo Williams--both of whom have lost close family members to breast cancer--masterfully emcee the show. At the end of the night, a mirror ball trophy is given to the top fundraiser, the biggest crowd pleaser, and the highest-scoring dancer.
Another special feature of the event is that each year it is held in memory of someone the city has lost to breast cancer. This year's event was dedicated to Elizabeth Ratcliffe Rayburn, a dynamic wife and mother who lost her life to breast cancer at the age of 56. Her son, Joe Rayburn, danced in her honor as one of this year's stars.
Said one audience member, "I love that in addition to this being a knock-out show, you never forget that it's about an important cause and need. It's in memory of someone who died of breast cancer, and it's about supporting the needs of so many people still struggling through the cancer journey."
Thirteen stars took the stage at this year's show: Ralph Beck, Brett Blumenthal, Paige Burgess, Michele Dudley, Shelly Hall, Bob Hillis, Will Merritt, Joe Rayburn, Terrie Reeves, Ginger Rockefeller, Scott Tyler, Jerri Webb, and Amy Welton. Each of them participated with a personal or moral connection to the cause.
In fact, that is likely part of the growing success of Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte to Benefit the Pink House. In addition to a dedicated planning committee and a top-notch show that gets even better each year, the centerpiece is a slate of stars who care. In addition to dancing, each star also commits to raising at least $25,000 (and that amount has increased since the first year). Starting the fundraising process six months before the show itself, many of the stars far exceed that goal--most doubling and sometimes tripling that benchmark! When you combine that with enthusiastic support from a public who increasingly recognizes the impact of breast cancer on our community, it is easy to see why this event is expanding so greatly.
So who won this year? Bob Hillis, Director of Field Operations for JE Dunn Construction Company, won Top Fundraiser, raising just over $89,108, followed by Joe Rayburn and Ginger Rockefeller who raised $76,792 and $69,056 respectively. The Crowd Pleaser award went to Joe Rayburn who, with his professional dance partner Darinka Divljak, danced with gusto in memory of his mother. The Judge's Choice winner was Terrie Elizabeth Reeves, founder of Empower Health America, and her professional dance partner Charlton Alicea. But the story doesn't end there because donations are still rolling in from fans and friends of each of the Stars!
Best yet, this outpouring of care and funds directly supports our mission and work. Increased awareness from the event has contributed to a three-fold increase in the number of women and men coming through the doors of the Pink House, and the funds have helped allow us to staff appropriately for that growth and to increase the infrastructure, programs and services needed to meet that need. For example:
In 2017, Carolina Breast Friends delivered 285 programs to breast cancer Survivors at the Pink House. This year that number will increase.
An average of 60 women a month now visit the Pink House. For many of them it's the first stop they make--and a safe landing place--after learning of their diagnosis.
Carolina Breast Friends distributed 912 comfort bags in 2017, containing items to help with chemotherapy, radiation and recovery. That number will also increase this year.
This makes it clear that the real winners of Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte to Benefit the Pink House are the people with breast cancer that we serve by providing "the care before the cure."
Long-term planning is underway to create satellite locations of the Pink House, but even before that happens, Carolina Breast Friends is expanding its reach by making inroads into the Latin American community with the new La Casa Rosada con Latinas program (Click here to see story).
Mark your calendars now for next years' Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte to Beneft the Pink House, March 30th!
Special thanks to all of the event sponsors and the planning committee for Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte to Benefit the Pink House: Claire Talley, Felipe Gonzalez Edmiston and Shana Fox--the founding members of the event--plus Carolina Breast Friends' team of Krista Barry, Amber Tracewell and Pam Young, and current Board Chair and Vice-Chair Beth Harrelson and Pam Phipps.