GONZALES — When Anita Cann asked Gwen Price, director of middle schools for the Ascension Parish School District, to dance as a local celebrity in the 2013 Dancing for a Cause charity competition, Price’s response was decisive.
“Girl, I do not dance,” Price told Cann, her friend and a committee co-chairwoman for the charity event.
But Cann was persuasive and now Price is signed on to represent Ascension Parish schools in the Dancing for a Cause fundraiser to be held at 7 p.m. July 13 at at the Lamar-Dixon Exposition Center Trademart building.
“Of course, I’ve been questioning myself the whole time,” Price said. “What did I get myself into? But I feel honored that she asked. I feel honored to represent Ascension Parish schools in this endeavor. I just hope I don’t embarrass them too much.”
Price and 10 other local “celebrities” and their professional dance partners will foxtrot, sashay and boogie across the stage during the competition, which is based on the TV show “Dancing with the Stars.”
The competition benefits Community Opportunities — The Arc East Ascension, an organization that enhances the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families through services such as job training programs, independent living, respite and adult day care.
Returning for its fifth year, the competition’s theme is “Doing it Gangnam Style,” Cann said.
Cann describes the upcoming event as “lots of energy, lots of fun and lots of elegance.”
Last year’s competition raised around $80,000 and Cann hopes the public will be just as generous this year.
“We need all the help we can get,” Cann said. “Funds are not flowing as well from different revenue streams that we have had in the past. We’re just asking to make the revenue up by the general public helping with this event.”
“We’re hoping for $100,000,” said Dennis Stevens, business operations manager for COEA, as the agency is known.
The monies raised at the event will pay for capital outlay projects for the COEA, including completing a computer training facility at the center’s East Ascension Complex Boulevard location and the purchase of a new van to transport clients to jobs and appointments, Stevens said.
Cann said the money will also fund roof repairs to the center and the construction of a re-sale shop where some of the non-profit’s members work.
Currently, COEA rents space for its “Treasures of the Arc” re-sale boutique on East Ascension Street, Cann said.
The local celebrities participating in the Dancing for a Cause competition and their professional partners are: lawyer Matt Pryor with Alyssa Kling; State Fire Marshal H. Butch Browning Jr. with Ryn Jones and Aron Coates; lawyer and “Cosmopolitan” magazine’s Man of the Year Ryan Chenevert and Claire Preston; the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office’s Kyle Hanna with Kris Cangelosi; the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office Allison B. Hudson with Le’Brian Patrick; Marian Walsworth, of the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, with Guillermo Gonzales; Dr. Dawn Zitman with Leonard Augustus; Rubicon LLC General Manager Mark Dearman with Courtney Black; state Rep. Clay Schexnayder’s sister Toni Schexnayder with Van Vo; and Price, also with Van Vo.
At press time, one other local celebrity in the competition, Postlethwaite and Netterville’s Sally Diez, had not been paired with a professional dancer, organizers said.
The event benefits the community so much, several former dancers could not stay away from the competition.
Pryor has been involved in the Dancing for a Cause competition since its inception five years ago as a judge, dancer and emcee.
“To help keep their mission going is a tremendous honor,” Pryor said. “It’s one of a kind in our community. It benefits such a wonderful cause that provides so many services for our special needs adults.”
Although Pryor wouldn’t reveal any information about his dance number, he said he is “in it to win it.”
“We want to win the event and there is going to be some tough competition this year,” Pryor said.
Dearman last appeared in the Dancing for a Cause charity competition in 2011.
“When I finished the event two years ago, I put the dancing shoes up in the closet and thought they would stay there forever,” Dearman said.
But he was glad to dance again when asked to help raise money for such a worthy cause.
“It’s worth putting your pride on the line, so to speak, to do something really good for the local community,” Dearman said.
“I love to dance but this is a whole other ball game,” Walsworth said. “I’m just very excited to be part of it. While I’m nervous, I look forward to July 13.”
Emceeing the fundaiser will be former Ascension Parish Schools Superintendent Donald Songy and KQXL FM’s LaTangela Sherman.
Judges for the competition include Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez; WBRZ TV’s Brittany Weiss; EATEL’s Community Connection host Jenny Heroman; Czarina Walker of InfiniEDGE; and dance instructor Jodey Bruno.
This year’s honorary chairman is 23rd Judicial District Attorney Ricky Babin.
Online voting for the competition’s favorite dancers begins June 21 at Dancing for a Cause’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DancingForACause. Each vote costs 99 cents and the celebrity dancer who receives the most donations will receive the Fan Favorite award the night of the competition. Donations for Fan Favorite contest will also be accepted at the show.
Doors open at 6 p.m. with the show beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30 and are available from any LeBlanc’s Food stores or from the ARC of East Ascension office at 1122 S. East Ascension Complex Boulevard in Gonzales.
Tickets bought before June 21 are $20.
Sponsorships are also available. More information can be found by calling the agency at (225) 621-2000.