ST. GEORGE – The stars came out a little early Saturday night and they were wearing their dancing shoes as the Washington County Children’s Justice Center in sponsorship with the Southern Utah Home Builders Association put on the first ever “Dancing with your Community Stars.”
In what looks to become an annual fundraising event for the Children’s Justice Center, members of the community packed the auditorium of Snow Canyon High School to cheer on their favorite star as they danced across the stage in hopes of winning a shiny trophy and raising money to help children in Washington County who have suffered from abuse.
Hosted by Cindy Olsen and Bryan Benware of the Mix 103.1, the star-studded evening featured performances from community stars Linda Baker, Brian Passey, Cory Pulsipher, Carl Lamar, Donna Smith, Carmen Snow and Kathy Tolleson along with their professional dance coaches; members of the Dixie State University Ballroom Dance Team, Red Rock Swing Dance and dancers from Agrello Dance and Fitness.
Most of the community stars have never had dance training before, center director Patricia Sheffield said, adding that they have been working for months to learn and polish their routines.
“They are taking a huge leap of faith on behalf of the children of Washington County,” Sheffield said.
One of the crowd favorites, Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher, performed a sultry tango that had the crowd laughing from the get go as he danced across the stage without breaking character.
Pulsipher was also the brunt of many of the evening’s jokes as both the hosts and the judges couldn’t help but take a stab at him.
“I am just glad the sheriff is here tonight,” Benware said, “so that no one gets arrested for dancing.”
Judge Vardell Curtis told Pulsipher that it had always been his dream to give the sheriff a moving violation.
Each of the seven stars had the opportunity to perform one dance which was then given a score by the judges. The top three were chosen by a combination of judges’ scores and audience votes, similar to the reality television show, “Dancing With the Stars.”
As an added twist and an added bonus for the fundraising efforts, audience members were also allowed to purchase votes – $1 per single vote or $5 for six votes – to help their favorite dancers.
The top three finalists were Passey, Snow and Tolleson along with their partners.
The winner of the Mirror Ball Trophy and first-ever Dancing With Your Community Stars champions were Snow and her partner Giacomo Agrello, who performed a smooth waltz. Judges praised the couple for their form and partnership and told Snow that she mirrored her partner perfectly.
About the Children’s Justice Center
“The Washington County Children’s Justice Center is a safe homelike setting where victims of child abuse can receive a forensic interview, medical exam and referral to victim services, such as mental health counseling and support services,” according to material presented at the event.
From the Washington County Children’s Justice Center website:
The Children’s Justice Center is one of 20 homelike facilities across the state of Utah that serve children and families who are experiencing the crisis and chaos that comes with the disclosure of significant physical or sexual abuse and other crimes involving children such as domestic violence. The Center is designed to help children feel safe and comfortable so they may begin to deal with the difficult and often frightening issues that surround abuse.
Traditionally, investigation of child abuse required multiple interviews of the child victim by the police, social services, medical personnel, mental health professionals and attorneys. Each interview occurred at a different place and rarely in a setting that was familiar or comfortable for the child. The Children’s Justice Center is place for the child with a homelike environment, where necessary interviews can occur in an atmosphere that is non-threatening to the child.
Ninety-eight percent of the cases the center sees are children who are victims of sexual abuse, Sheffield said.
Proceeds from the night’s show will directly benefit the center.
St. George News videographer Samantha Tommer contributed to this post.
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