Dancing For Charity Is No Jive

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With many an edgy jokes and plenty of fun, locals paired up Saturday night to dance their way to a trophy, and plenty of donations for the American Red Cross.

Tara Gilts, director of development at OhioHealth O'Bleness Hospital, was named the champion of the 5th annual Dancing with the Athens Stars after winning over the crowd with a swing dance.

Gilts faced fierce competition at Stuart's Opera House from music therapist Gay Dalzell, physician Krista Duval, Bedrock Party Rental owner Rich Hayes, former teacher and library Bonnie Lackey, Southeast Beverage Company's Austin Phillips, Kate Robey of Snider, Fuller and Stroh, lawyer Ken Ryan and Class "A" Sounds' Aaron Thomas.

Many of the dancers were unsure of their dancing skills when they were asked to participate in the competition. Videos shown before the dancers competed humorously displayed struggles they had in getting used to dancing shoes and becoming dancers.

"The last time I wore heels was…1992," Duval said.

But the rewards of learning something new and doing it for charity took over, and the dangers ultimately had fun with the professional dancers leading them.

"It's about the journey, about getting outside my comfort zone, trying new things," Robey said after she danced her cha cha/hustle.

The videos also included appearances by other celebrities including Steve Buscemi asking for votes on behalf of Dalzell. Ryan's video included a dedication to fellow attorney and event supporter Tom Eslocker, who recently passed away.

About 350 people attended the dancing fundraiser, according to Jane Patton, executive director of The American Red Cross of Southeastern Ohio.

"There's always so much energy, a lot of laughter and a lot of audience support," said Linda Rice, who has attended the last two years. "It always fills the place."

Every dance received the highest marks from judges Giles Lee, Joan Linscott and Judy Piercy.

For the first time in the competition, a hip hop dance was performed, and Thomas and his partner, Carolyn Ervin, performed a freestyle to "What Does the Fox Say?"

"We really had a great time together," Ervin said. "Aaron was great to work with."

Donation totals were not immediately available.