Do Savannnah

Dancing Stars of Coastal Georgia raise money for Alzheimer’s Association

  • Dancing Stars of Coastal Georgia 2016 (Spotted photo by Corey Brooks)
  • Dancing Stars of Coastal Georgia 2016 (Spotted photo by Corey Brooks)
  • Dancing Stars of Coastal Georgia 2016 (Spotted photo by Corey Brooks)

Dancing Stars of Coastal Georgia raise money for Alzheimer’s Association

06 Jun 2017

It’s a local twist on a national obsession.

The fundraising event, 2017 Dancing Stars of Coastal Georgia, looks a bit like “Dancing with the Stars.” But this version features local competitors performing with professional dancers to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter.

“We have eight of them across the state,” says Amy Johnston, senior marketing and communications director for the Alzheimer’s Association. “It’s kind of a pick-up from the show ‘Dancing with the Stars.’

“You have community leaders and local celebrities who dance with a professional and raise funds while they’re doing it,” she says. “Every vote costs a dollar. There are 12 contestants, all from the coastal part of Georgia.”

Last year, more than $2.2 million was raised across Georgia with Dancing Stars. That’s urgently needed, as there are more than 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s.

Every 67 seconds, someone is diagnosed with the disease, and two-thirds of them are women. Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

Dancing Stars’ aim is to support the programs and services provided for people with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as their families and caregivers. And to be honest, the competition is just plain fun.

“I hope I don’t embarrass myself too bad,” says contestant Eric Glick, a senior loan officer with Starkey Mortgage, which is sponsoring the event. “It took a little bit of arm twisting by one of my friends. He was a participant last year. He recruited me.

“It’s a great cause that’s trying to give back to the local community,” Glick says. “It’s helping people in need. Fortunately, I’m in a position where I can give back and contribute.”

Glick has no previous ballroom dance experience.

“Absolutely none,” he says. “That’s why I need a lot of practice. But it’s been a good experience, it really has.”

Each contestant is partnered with a professional dancer for practice and competing.

“We’ve been practicing for the past three to four months,” Glick says. “We practice from 8-10 p.m. at night and on weekends, so it’s time consuming.

“But I think it will be fun,” he says. “It’s something that’s taking me outside of my element. At the end of the day, it’s all for a good cause.”

Another contestant joined to celebrate her grandfather.

“I have several friends who have done it,” says Meta Adler, a caterer and food stylist. “I have a very close friend who is involved with the Alzheimer’s Association.

“My close friend and I both had grandfathers with Alzheimer’s,” she says. “This year marks the five-year anniversary of my grandfather’s passing and I’m doing this to celebrate him.”

This is Adler’s first experience with ballroom dance.

“I’m learning very quickly now,” she says. “I think I had two left feet before, but maybe I have a left foot and a right foot now.

“I’ve had the most amazing people teaching me at Savannah Ballroom. I can see how people can become addicted.

“They make it fun, they make it relatable,” she says. “If I didn’t have them, I would be terrified. They made the process easy, fun and enjoyable.”

Dancing Stars of Coastal Georgia is a competition as well as a fundraiser. Viewers can watch online and vote for their favorite dancers for $1 per vote.

“Someone will be crowned the judge’s choice, who will be the best dancer,” Adler says. “There also will be a people’s choice, the one who raises the most money. They set us a minimum goal of $20,000.”

Now that she’s done it, Adler would compete all over again.

“I absolutely would, but I would rather be the mentor for someone,” she says. “It’s where you take someone under your wing next year to help them raise money and enjoy the whole experience. People who have competed before have been wonderful mentors to me.”

Tickets are still available to watch the competition.

“If people would be interested in coming and watching us all dance, we love everyone’s support,” Adler says. “Ninety-nine percent of the money raised stays here in coastal Georgia.

“It stays here to provide educational programs and support,” she says. “There are a lot of different programs, not just for people with Alzheimer’s, but for their caregivers and family members who are affected by the disease.”

Although it’s nice to win, that’s not really the object, Adler says.

“It doesn’t matter who people support,” she says. “It’s more about the overall goals than a specific dancer.”

In addition to Adler and Glick, other local stars are Ericka Backus, director of public relations for Visit Savannah; Wes Bonner, vice president of business development for Meridian Clinical Research; Lee Burton, a retired golf executive; Jeff Calver, manager of K Machine Industrial Services; Johnnie Ganem; Ashley Gold, a realtor for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services; Jodie Luther-Kofod, a personal trainer and lifestyle coach; Theresa Rose Reed, general manager of Savannah Station; Billy Snider, owner of Outdoor Maintenance and Repair; and Joe Welch, business director at J.C. Lewis Ford.

Celebrity judges for the event include Claudia and Bobby Deen, Jonathan Doone and Kevan Jackson. Celebrity emcees include Kim Gusby and Kenya Cabine.

“We are inviting all of Savannah and the surrounding areas to join us for the largest Dancing Stars of Coastal Georgia event,” says event chair Susie MacMillan. “This year’s event will allow us to band together with the Alzheimer’s Association in support of caregivers and the search for a cure.”

According to a recent study, the percentage of Georgians 65 years old and older with Alzheimer’s will increase by 46 percent by 2025.

Alzheimer’s disease kills more people than prostate and breast cancer combined. The Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter, serves more than 130,000 Georgians living with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.

“We are just $25,000 away from our overall fundraising goal of $300,000,” Adler says. “We need all the support we can get from the greater Savannah community to help us reach this goal.”


What: 2017 Dancing Stars of Coastal Georgia

When: 6 p.m.-midnight June 9

Where: Savannah International Trade & Convention Center, 1 International Drive

Cost: $150, includes cocktails and dinner; $1 per vote