The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 26, 2013

Dancing With the Stars for United Way

Six couples ready to perfect moves

By Carra Higgins
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — Nearly five months out, local “stars” are preparing to dazzle an audience, but above all raise money for the 32 organizations served by the United Way of Southern West Virginia.

Thursday evening at the Black Knight Country Club, the dancers and partnerships for the second Dancing With the Stars were revealed. The six all-star couples have until Sept. 20 to perfect their moves, but the public can already start voting online at www.unitedwayswvstars.org for their

favorite pairing. Both the People’s Choice Award and Judge’s Choice Award winners will receive the coveted Mirror Ball trophy. The United Way asks that each vote cast for the People’s Choice Award be a minimum $5 donation.

This year’s dancing couples are Eric Thomas and Melanie McGraw, Charles “Chaz” Turner and Merrily McAuliffe, Elmer Coppoolse and Libby Kelly, David Chinn and Donna Holt Williams, Dr. Brett Eckley and Lori Tabit and Dr. William “Bill” O’Brien and Sherrie A. Hunter.

United Way Director Margaret Ann O’Neal said last year’s dancing event raised $50,000 and packed approximately 600 people into the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. She told the crowd Thursday evening that the “time, talent and energy” each dancer is sharing is all for the United Way and the nonprofit organizations it supports. O’Neal said the United Way wants to top the $50,000 raised by the first Dancing With the Stars.

Although the Sept. 20 event seems like it’s a long way away, O’Neal explained the earlier partnership announcement will give the couples plenty of time to practice their moves.

Victor Flanagan, who along with his partner Kenette Coffman won a Mirror Ball last year, said the two would begin practicing at approximately 8 p.m. and not finish until nearly midnight. Although the time commitment was “unbelievable,” Flanagan added “we had a blast.” The first Dancing event also gave him the opportunity to meet new friends and get to better know others in the community and continue that relationship.

O’Neal said she heard a lot of positive feedback from the community about last year’s event and that it “set a high bar.” She said the event was “win-win” because the public had “so much fun” for the United Way cause.

Holt Williams was all smiles after she met her dancing partner, Chinn, Thursday evening. She joked that “you can only tell Margaret Ann no so many times,” but she is “so excited” about what lies ahead. Holt Williams added she’s dancing to support the United Way and all that it does.

The Sept. 20 event begins with registration at 6 p.m. and will once again be in the Convention Center. Dress for the event is evening attire for women and a jacket is required for men.

In addition to the website, more information about the event, sponsorship or reservations can be obtained by contacting the United Way at 304-253-2111.

 — E-mail: chiggins@register-herald.com