The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 26, 2013

Preparations continue for United Way’s Sept. 20 Dancing with the Stars event

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — The cast of the United Way’s Dancing with the Stars gathered Thursday evening at The Ambrosia Inn to film their biographies for the big night, Sept. 20.

United Way Executive Director Margaret O’Neal said during the Dancing with the Stars event, attendees will get to see a short video bio of each of the dancers, as well as a few clips from their rehearsals.

She said last year’s event raised $50,000, making it the top fundraiser for last year’s campaign.

The dancers have from early May until Sept. 20 to practice their moves, which is a bit longer than last year, O’Neal said.

“Vacations interfered with rehearsals a bit last year, so we announced the dancers earlier this year.”

One dancer, Sherrie Hunter, had to do her bio video a bit ahead of schedule, as she had gallbladder surgery and was in recovery Thursday evening.

O’Neal said Hunter didn’t miss a beat though — she was handing out business cards to all the doctors and nurses, asking them to vote for her on Dancing with the Stars.

One by one, the dancers filed into the beautiful downstairs area of The Ambrosia Inn, a newly opened bed and breakfast at 611 N. Kanawha St. in Beckley.

Donna Holt Williams said her first thought when O’Neal approached her about being a dancer was, “No, no, no.”

“Margaret O’Neal is good at changing minds though,” Williams said.

“You have to respect the fact that she doesn’t take no for an answer. That’s how they approach their work every day to help all these great causes.”

Williams said she’s a beginner when it comes to dancing, but rehearsals have been “so far, so good.”

She’ll be dancing alongside David Chinn.

Another dancer, Dr. Brett Eckley, said he was nervous when he was asked to dance for Dancing with the Stars.

“No one can say no to Margaret Ann, though. I have no experience dancing, but it’s been fun. I’ve only stubbed my toes a few hundred times.”

He’ll be dancing with Lori Tabit, who he said also had no professional dance experience, but the two are working well together.

He said it’s all about teamwork.

Other dancing pairs include Eric Thomas and Melanie McGraw, Charles “Chaz” Turner and Merrily McAuliffe, Elmer Coppoolse and Libby Kelly, and Dr. William “Bill” O’Brien and Sherrie Hunter.

Dancing with the Stars will take place Sept. 20 at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. Registration will begin at 6 p.m., cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m., seating in the ballroom at 7:15 p.m. and the show will get started at 7:30 p.m. Men should wear jackets to the event and women should wear evening wear.

Two awards will be given — Judge’s Choice, based votes from a panel of three judges on dancers’ skill and footwork, and People’s Choice, based on votes from the audience and online.

Each vote, both at the event and online at, will be $5.

Tickets for the event are $75 each and tables are also available. Gene Kelly tables are available for $750, Ginger Rogers tables are $1,000, Fred Astaire tables are $1,250 and two deluxe sky box seats are available for $2,500.

O’Neal encourages everyone who wants to attend the event to make reservations as soon as possible, as there are a limited number of seats available.

Reservations can be made by calling 304-253-2111.

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