Mindy Taylor’s suggestion, participation pays off well for School Foundation
By BRENDA HARRISON Editor of The News Journal Florence, S.C.
Mindy Taylor has invested much of her time, talent and ideas into Dancing For Our Future Stars. In fact, it was her suggestion that inspired The School Foundation to hit the dance floor and give it a whirl back in 2011.
On March 30, the School Foundation will conduct its seventh dance competition at the SiMT. With just six events, this highly successful fund raiser has already raised $759,606 for Florence School District 1 schools.
Mindy, who is Duke Energy's District Manager of Government and Community Relations, learned about a similar dance competition during a conversation at a fund-raising dinner in North Carolina. It seemed like a fun, and different, event to do here, but she wasn’t sure who might be interested in doing it. Knowing that The School Foundation was looking for a second benefit, she pitched this idea to executive direct Debbie Hyler and found a willing ear. They met with the coordinator of a similar event who has been very helpful, she said. After assembling a committee, they were ‘dancing up a storm’ taking what they learned and adding their own touches.
“This was something different, relaxing, and so much fun,” Mindy said. “Everybody comes to watch their friends dance and it’s for a good cause,” she added.
Mindy chaired the planning committee and also volunteered to dance in the competition, then called Dancing With The Stars of Florence. Paired with David Kahn, they competed in the first competition. Even though she loves to dance, she admitted being a little nervous stepping up on that stage.
Since the start, Mindy has assisted Debbie in getting dancers for the competition.
“We are always looking for a diverse group of dancers who are representative of the community,” Mindy noted.
This year they have two local pastors and two members of the hotel industry competing, but it is all in good fun, Mindy stressed. As a former contestant, she really understands what she and Debbie are asking. She readily admits they may have “twisted” a few arms by encouraging some of the contestants to participate “for the children.” It’s hard for anyone to say no to that, and especially to Mindy and Debbie.
Mindy says The School Foundation, of which she is a board member, “is so grateful to everybody who has taken a leap of faith to participate in this event and do it for Florence School District 1 which reaps the benefits.
“I’ve been there, so I know what the dancers are facing,” she added.
Although Mindy came up with the idea to do this event in Florence, she had no idea it would be so popular.
“It sells out whenever the tables go up for sale,” she noted, adding this year’s event is sold out already. “We keep the prices lower than the School Foundation Gala so everyone can participate,” she added.
Everything was “rocking and rolling” with Dancing With The Stars of Florence for six years, Mindy said, until they received a letter from the television show “Dancing With The Stars” asking them to stop using their name. They complied, changing the name to “Dancing For Our Future Stars” which Mindy feels better suits their mission.
The event would not be possible, Mindy noted, without the superb School Foundation staff – Debbie Hyler and her assistant Beverly McKee. They do a fabulous job getting this event planned and coordinated, she noted. She also has high praises for Burnadene Kelley-Newman who not only helps the dancers choreograph their dance routines and find costumes, but offers space at her KFA dance studio for rehearsals.
“I don’t know what we would do without her help,” Mindy said.
DFOFS is also blessed with a judges panel of three talented dancers and instructors, Mindy continued. Donna Prothro, owner and director of The Dancer's Workshop in Manning, has been involved since the beginning. Robert Rodgers, a dance instructor and choreographer, along with his wife, Amanda Kinseth-Rodgers of WPDE Good Morning Carolinas, have been involved since 2012. They will all be back on March 30 to select the 2017 winners.
This year’s 12 celebrity dancers paired with professionals are:
• David Copeland (Savannah Grove Elementary) and Cheyanne Beck
• Barnett Greenberg (Greenberg Real Estate, LLC) and Meghan Burgess
• The Rev. Chris Handley (First Presbyterian Church) and Brandi Williamson
• Carl Humphries (HopeHealth, Inc.) and Meggie Baker
• Andrew Imbeau (ProMotion Rehab and Sports Medicine) and Hannah Yarborough
• The Rev. Will Malambri (Central United Methodist Church) and Katelyn Rodgers
• Ashleigh McIntyre (Raines Hospitality Inc.) and Cole Davis
• Chad Patterson (Raldex Hospitality) and Morgan Schoolfield
• Dr. Christy Prose (Carolinas Hospital System) and Chris Mixon
• J. Lawrence “Chipper” Smith II (Smith Funeral Home of Florence, LLC) and Georgeanna Kelley
• Rebecca E. Smith (Assurant Specialty Property) and Tyler Jordan
• Yancey Stokes (Honda of SC Manufacturing) and Erin Haynes
Fans may vote online for their favorite dance couples at DancingForOurFutureStarsOfFlorence.com for only $10 per vote.
The “People’s Choice” mirror ball trophies will be awarded to the three couples receiving the most votes. The judges will name one couple “Technical Skills Winner” based on the contestants’ overall skills. A couple will also be chosen as “Most Entertaining” by the judges. Dancers receiving the largest number of online votes will be awarded the “Social Stars” trophy.
The School Foundation’s board member Ed Love and local celebrity Audra Coble will serve as master and mistress of ceremonies. The 2016 celebrities will perform the opening act and the KFA Fierce team will provide special entertainment throughout the evening.