It is all over – the night Lee County has been looking forward to has passed – Dancing with the Lee County Stars was a huge success! As I stood watching the volunteers finish with the clean up efforts in the near empty hall at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, my thought was “we did it! we saved CIS”! By “we”, I did not just mean those of us who rallied to hold the fundraiser in an effort to avoid having to close the doors on an important organization for Lee County. I mean the entire community…….Lee County saved Communities In Schools of Lee County and for that I am totally overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude. The incredible amount of generosity in Lee County never ceases to amaze me!
Deciding to change from our signature fundraiser – an elegant Gala at a prominent Lee County home – to a new type of fundraiser that we had no experience organizing and has not been tried in Sanford was risky on it’s own. But to hang all our hopes of staying alive on it in the current economic environment was insane! The skeptics told us it would never work. But, we had to try – we just had to! CIS has come too far to just give up because the economy was bad and we were struggling. But, we were also realistic – we had heard of other counties in NC that did a DWTS themed fundraiser that raised over $100,000 – we knew that was not going to be likely. So, we cut our operating expenses to the bare bones, planned our budget with a very conservative approach, and set a stretch goal that we hoped we just might come close to. And we began to plan the event that was critical to our future. And it worked! We not only met our budget and even hit our stretch goal — we blew it out of the water!!!
Along came the dancers — most of them reluctantly signed on to help a good cause, but wondered how they were going to learn to dance and not make fools of themselves with such a short time to prepare!!! They all worked hard and the end result was AMAZING! Each and every one of them looked great and had the crowd cheering and voting like crazy!!! They are our heroes!! Yes, there were a lot of people who worked hard and made this happen and they all deserve a ton of credit……but, it was the couples who put their reputations on the line to perform a choreographed dance routine in front of about 800 people that really made the show! They are the reason people will be lining up to buy tickets next year as soon as we start announcing the date in fear that we will sell out much earlier! They are the reason everyone had such a good time! They are the reason we were successful – their creative and competitive efforts soliciting pre-votes and ticket sales to be the winner by raising the most funds skyrocketed us over our goals for the event! Yes – they are the heroes and deserve the most credit!
Congratulations to all the couples – you’re all winners in my heart! The top fundraisers and winners of the coveted mirror ball trophy were Wing Man Tam and Karla Koballa! The Artistic Winners (the judge’s choice) of the night were Dana Slate and Carl Bryan. Congratulations!
I won’t say that it went off without any hitches, but somehow, everything worked out. We even overcame the biggies that could have been disastrous – everything fell into place! We sold out our approximately 550 tickets a week before the big night. But, before we could shut down the on-line ticket sales and contact board members and dancers to stop selling tickets, we over sold by more than 200 additional attendees! We ended up with just about 800 people, including volunteers! So we had to scramble to accommodate the larger crowd with just one week to go! Then, the day before the event, we found out that the company in Raleigh that agreed to donate the wine, backed out on us!!! A huge thank you to City Councilman Mike Stone for saving the day by making some very fast calls and, within about 1/2 an hour, arranging for us to buy the wine from another source at cost – it resulted in an unexpected expense, but we had wine and we ended up with a donation that covered the expense – so it all worked out. Due to the very large # of people arriving all at the same time, we had some confusion and logistical issues around finding seats and getting the food – definitely some lessons learned to keep in mind for next year – but, by the time the show started, it was all good! We have a lot of lessons learned that we will keep in mind as we plan next year’s event!
But, we did it – we saved CIS! And we have the most wonderful community in the world to thank for it!
Watch for an announcement of the date for next year — get your tickets early — we’re sure to sell out again!