Friday night, I had a live ticket to one of America's favorite reality shows: Dancing with the Stars. Only this wasn't the ABC version where the stars and D-list celebrities win big bucks. This was the seventh annual "Dancing Stars of Columbus" event -- a unique, glamorous, and very entertaining night in which all of the big bucks benefit the Alzheimer's Association, Georgia Chapter.
My husband and I attended as guests of a very generous friend whose mother suffered for years with the disease before passing on. I was glad to go if only to watch some local dancing (I grew up dancing at Patti Taylor's Academy of Fine Arts), but I soon realized this benefit would offer far more than a stage show.
The evening was hosted at the River Mill Event Center. Any excuse to eat a creation of Jamie Keating's is a good one. The food (and drink, or so I hear) was impeccable. The celebrity hosts, Amy Adams and DJ Jones, were charming, stunning and quite capable of keeping the large crowd on track. The judges, Miss Georgia Eiesha Horsley, Parker Swift and Jamie Farmer, gave each act praise and constructive feedback -- all with a good dose of humor and Southern kindness.
And the dancers, of course, were fantastic. I saw backflips, twirls, high kicks and a beautiful Spanish waltz. Brantley Arrington, a pro dancer and last year's Judges' Choice winner, paired up with Marie Moshell to do a Broadway-inspired jazz number. Their act brought the house down. They had charisma, pizzazz, and great moves! Moshell ended the routine in a full split like it was as easy as pie. They ended up winning the People's Choice Award
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at the end of the night.
But the true stars of this event were the ones who donated to the worthy cause. Over $300,000 was donated on Friday night. That incredible sum of money will be put to use in our own area through the Alzheimer's Association, Georgia Chapter, creating new programs, improving services, strengthening support groups and even covering costs for medical bracelets and other needs.
I'm a Type I diabetic. For a few years, my mother organized the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Columbus area "Walk to Cure Diabetes." She did an incredible job and invigorated the community about curing the disease, but even at its best that event raised around $100,000. The amount that the "Dancing Stars of Columbus" raises is noteworthy on a national level. In fact, I was told that many other Alzheimer's Association chapters around the country have adopted this model, inspired by Dancing with the Stars. It is entertaining, community-centered and very effective.
And all for a great cause. I mentioned our host lost his mother to the disease. He told us how painful it was to watch it strip away her mental faculty, her physical ability and, worst of all, her dignity. Here's hoping efforts like these not only will continue to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer's disease, but also will cure it for good -- for our loved ones and in honor of those we've lost.
-- Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent contractor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org