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Dancing fundraiser shatters records

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

A local fundraiser to support the American Cancer Society boogied to new heights as the Dancing with Our Stars event recorded its highest total yet.

Twenty dancing partners and nearly 800 attendees gathered in the Harrah's ballroom in Metropolis, Ill., for the Lourdes Relay for Life's eighth annual Dancing with Our Stars on Saturday night. The final total earned of $242,000, which doesn't include some online donations and DVD sales, set a new record and topped last year's total of $239,000, according to organizer Rita Bailey.

She said each year the goal is to exceed the amount raised during the previous year. The McCracken Lourdes Relay for Life team ranks first in Kentucky and third overall worldwide and this year's fundraising brings the combined total to $1 million.

Bailey, who has led the event since in began eight years ago with one-fourth the number of guests and one-tenth the number of donations, reflected back on what makes Dancing with Our Stars such a special night.

"It's amazing to see how much it has grown and evolved from a small room to a large event center," she said. "The event has so many aspects that make it successful from the entertainment to the competition to a worthy cause. It's a win-win for everyone."

Bailey emphasized the hard work of the stars, who spend more than five months raising money and practicing for their ballroom dance performances. She also complimented the friendly competition and rivalries that develop between couples.

The local stars, or notable community members, who danced in the show included Griffin Bicking, Dr. Barbara Bowers, Matthew Church, Laura Emerson, Dale Hanson, Karen Falder, Luke Ross, Trudy Wyatt, Chad Lewis, Cindy Hutson, Carol Gault, Andrea Moore, Rachael King, Angie Sanders, Dean Owen, Cletus Murphy, Chuck Sexton, Matt Sullivan, Josh White and Dedra Turney.

Hutson and Jack Johnson were the overall grand champions, with Bowers and Jay Brasher coming in second place and Moore and Jay Brasher coming in third place, according to the total amount raised by each group.

In the audience favorite or top dancer category, Sanders and Angie Woods received first place, Sullivan and Mary Jordan came in second place and Bowers and Brasher received third place, according to the judges' vote.

Freddy Hicks, the superstar of this year's program, a cancer survivor who has participated in the benefit since it began and who dances at the Kroger in Hannan Plaza to raise money for the Lions Club Telethon of Stars, was honored.

Bailey was also thanked for her eight years of service as the event organizer. The American Cancer Society will honor Bailey, who plans to step aside, with a Relay for Life Spirit Award named for her.

"It has been so much fun to lead it every year, I have met so many great friends and raised money for a great cause," she said. "It's a truly special event because it has a little of everything. But it's time to pass the torch."

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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