After months of fundraising by dance teams, the Rome Celebrity Dance Challenge pulled in just over $188,000 for the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia.
The event was held Saturday night at the City Auditorium, where local celebrities joined their dance partners to put the final results of their practices on the line before a packed house.
Total fundraising since the annual event was started eight years ago was taken over the $1 million mark Saturday, all in support of the center’s cause of providing services to victims of sexual assault and raising awareness of the issue over a five-county area.
Matt Plant set a record as well, raising $82,550, the most ever raised by a single contestant. Plant, a power sports salesman for OTR Wheel Engineering, partnered with JoAnna Parker, an Elm Street Elementary teacher and an instructor at The Dance Centre.
With Plant locking up the People’s Choice Award for most funds donated to a team, Floyd County Sheriff Tim Burkhalter was the runner-up for the award, raising over $20,000. He danced with Katie Kiser, the executive assistant to the city manager’s office and a dance instructor at Baird Ballet and The Dance Centre.
The Judges’ Choice Award went to Team Mathis, made up of Thad Mathis and his dance partner Tara Ogle. Mathis is a fourth-grade teacher and coach at Darlington School. Ogle is a pediatric nurse for Harbin Clinic who started dancing at the age of 3.
Runner-up for the Judges’ Choice Award was Team Avila. Severo Avila, the features editor and columnist for the Rome News-Tribune, danced with Emily Tumlin, a suite attendant for the Rome Braves and Rome Little Theatre performer.
The show was emceed by Danny Price, the general counsel for Berry College, and Chris Parker, a Coosa High teacher.
The other teams to compete were:
Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Department Director Kevin Cowling took the stage with Faith Im, an assistant professor of dance at Shorter University.
Gorg Hubenthal, the owner of The Foundry Growler Station, danced with Lauren Jones-Hillman, a member of the Harbin Clinic marketing department.
Dr. Kristen Leezer, an OB/GYN for the Northwest Georgia Medical Clinic, partnered with Payton Campbell, a dance instructor at Baird Ballet and a Berry College graduate.
Cindy Stansell, the owner of Salon Ten 17, danced with Chase Tolbert, who has previously participated in the dance challenge.
Floyd County police Sgt. Rusty Williams partnered with Hannah Camacho, a Berry College graduate and dance instructor.