LUMBERTON — Thirty-two dancers have just hours left to perfect their moves before hitting the floor at the third annual Dancing with the Robeson County Stars competition.
The dancers will perform their routines Friday night and again on Saturday night, when the two who raised the most money for the United Way of Robeson County will be awarded the mirror ball trophy. The event is at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center.
The couples, who have different levels of dancing experience, have been practicing their routines with choreographers since they were randomly paired in November. Each dancer has committed to trying to raise at least $5,000 for the United Way and proceeds from their pledges and ticket sales will go to education initiatives in the county and to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides free books for children.
With a $10 donation, fans can vote for their favorite couple and contribute to the cause. Until 10 a.m. Friday, votes can be cast at the United Way office. Attendees can also vote during Friday and Saturday nights’ shows.
Sandra Oliver, United Way of Robeson County’s executive director, said she’s hopeful about this year’s fundraiser, although a specific goal for raising money has not been established.
“We’ve had several come by just this morning bringing money,” Oliver said on Monday. “Everybody’s practicing their last couple of times and they’re excited.”
The first two events raised $314,000 after expenses, money that has provided books to about 2,400 children.
Some dancers —and local businesses — are getting crafty about raising the cash.
Alicia Moody, of Sisters’ Boutique in Lumberton, offered discounts to match donations made to each of the 16 teams — 10 percent off for a $10 donation, 20 percent for a $20 donation and so on. Customers were able to choose whether to distribute the money among pairs or donate it to their favorite duo. Moody danced in last year’s competition.
Last week, Erika Meekins and her partner, Evan Davenport, served tables at Candy Sue’s in downtown Lumberton, where anyone who donated $10 received a free appetizer.
Dance partners Linda Branch and Allan Campbell served up smiles at Arnold’s and owner Arnold West shared the night’s profits with the team.
Oliver said local businesses have always supported Dancing with the Robeson County Stars.
“That was their way of helping out rather than just handing them money and that gave the dancers a presence as well,” she said.
Davenport, Branch and Campbell also held an auction at Meekins’ home, where they raised nearly $6,000 that they plan to split. Members of dancer Connie Canery’s church took up a collection to support her and her partner, Zavery McDougald, Oliver said.
“This is what the dancers themselves came up with,” Oliver said. “… It was just their creative way of trying to raise some money.”
Winners will also be chosen in the categories of best dance and best costumes.
Saturday’s show, which begins at 7 p.m. is sold out, but there are a few tickets left for Friday night, according to Oliver.
They can be purchased for $30 each at the United Way office at 2512-A Fayetteville Road, or by phone at 910-739-4249 with a debit or credit card. No tickets will be available at the door. Friday’s show begins at 6:30 p.m.