The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 24, 2012

Thanks to all who helped make 'Dancing With The Stars' shine

United Way column

By Richard Jarrell
guest columnist

BECKLEY —  

It was a Starry, Starry night!

WOW, what a night! The Sept. 14 “Dancing With The Stars” was certainly the gala of the decade for southern West Virginia. From start to finish, it was a night filled with excitement, entertainment, energy — all done with excellence.

Kudos go out to Margaret Ann O’Neal, who lost many an hour of sleep worrying over this event. She, her staff and the entire committee were nothing short of incredible as they planned every detail with precision. Details such as opening the back entrance of the Convention Center to create more of a grand entrance feel — complete with Red Carpet. Students from the House of Harmony greeted everyone with an impressive display of their musical talents as they played a variety of jazz numbers.

Once inside the building there was what seemed like hundreds of sparkling stars hanging in the air along with a rotating mirror ball that sent sparkles all over the building. But the most sparkles were among all the ladies adorned in their beautiful dresses, jewelry and make-up. And the men looked pretty sharp themselves, all dressed in coats and ties.

Ticket sales over the last 10 days took off and topped off at just over 600. To me that is an incredible number for a first-year event in a community our size. So the question is, why would that many people come out to this event? The answer was simple — to help support an organization like the United Way! To help provide funds for 32 agencies in southern West Virginia!

Drum roll please …

I know everyone wants to know how much was raised for the whole event. Margaret Ann announced that night that in “People’s Choice” votes alone, over $22,000 was raised. That means over 4,400 votes were cast for the different dance teams. The first-place couple in People’s Choice was Vic Flanagan and Kenette Kauffman — who raised nearly $10,000 themselves — followed by Jeff Miller and Mendy Harvey in second place.

The grand total for the night in net proceeds was just over $50,000. That is 10 percent of the total goal for the year in one event. I must say as the campaign chair responsible for raising $500,000, I am humbled by the generosity of this community!

Let the dancing begin …

Once the house lights went down and the spotlights came on, it was time for the show to start and boy, what a show it was! As Bill O’Brien and Debby Sizemore served as masters of ceremony, each of the five dance couples came out and dazzled the crowd.

At the end of the evening, the winners were announced and again the champions were Vic and Kenette. Second place again was Jeff and Mendy.

With that said, anyone in attendance will tell you everyone was awesome and the real winner was the United Way of Southern West Virginia and the agencies we serve.

There are way too many thank yous to even try to list without leaving someone out. I just want everyone involved in any way to know that you are appreciated and that we could not have pulled off this event without you!

While this was an incredible night and will go a long way toward us making our goal, there is still much work to be done and many more dollars to raise. So again I encourage you to Live and Give United!

— United Way of Southern West Virginia 2012-2013 Campaign chair Richard Jarrell owns the two Chick-fil-A franchises in Beckley and is a member of the Raleigh County Board of Education.