During the next two months, competitors in the annual Dancing with the Johnson County Stars will spend hours perfecting their waltz, their swing and their foxtrots.

They put together impeccably choreographed shows with professional dancers, and practice week after week to tighten up their routines.

But it’s not just for the love of dance that they will be working this hard. With every twirl, slide and dip, these eight competitors will help raise thousands of dollars for nonprofit agencies in the county.

Dancing with the Johnson County Stars has become one of the largest fundraisers in the area. Since the first event was conducted in 2014, more than $670,000 has been raised for local nonprofit organizations.

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With a format that is fun and captures the public’s attention, the event makes a big impact for small community agencies, said Barb Miller, organizer of the competition.

“It’s different. It’s become an incubator for small nonprofits who might not have a fundraiser person or a development committee, to be able to learn to do fundraising,” she said.

Dancers will represent eight nonprofit agencies. Each agency is in charge of raising money for their cause, planning fundraisers big and small throughout the summer months.

Miller created the local event to play off the popularity of the television show, “Dancing with the Stars.” She had seen other similar events in central Indiana, and thought that it would be a good way to raise money to support area organizations.

With the contest format, the fundraiser could help multiple nonprofits at the same time, rather than go to all one agency, Miller said.

In the first year of the event, participants raised more than $180,000 combined for their individual groups. The competition has brought in more than $470,000 since, Miller said.

The organizations benefiting from the competition had to serve the entire county, have a strong volunteer base and a committed board. Over the course of the event, 16 agencies have taken part and raised valuable funds, Miller said.

Groups such as KIC-IT, the Johnson County Historical Society and Youth Connections have taken part in the event each year. CareNet Pregnancy Centers of Central Indiana, Haven Sanctuary for Women and Human Services have also participated in the past.

New agencies taking part this year include he Humane Society of Johnson County and the Johnson County Extension Homemakers’ “Dog Tags” program, which aids veterans who have recently retired and need immediate employment and benefits in order to support their families, as well as elderly service men and women who have fallen on hard times.

Katie Stahlhut will be dancing on behalf of the Humane Society of Johnson County. She had been involved with the Humane Society in different ways through her role as CEO of Stage 1 Dance Academy, and offered her lifetime of experience as a dancer to help support it.

“I’ve been connected with that organization and have a passion for animals, so I was looking to help out the community in general,” she said. “I always look for different volunteer opportunities, and I really like to dance, so it worked out perfect.”

Stahlhut has worked her contacts with area businesses to bring in sponsorships for her effort, and is planning on doing a series of events with her dance studio to raise money with the help of her students.

“I’m a little bit of a competitive person, so it makes me want to raise a bunch of extra money,” Stahlhut said. “It’s all for a great cause, with a friendly competition.”

In between raising funds, the dancers spend time with instructors from Five Star Dance Studio, learning their routines and dance steps. The campaign culminates with a live performance on Sept. 22 and 23.

Each dancer will put on a show that will be judged, in the hopes of raising the coveted Mirror Ball trophy for the best dancer.

Laura Kennedy, who will be dancing on behalf of Youth Connections, has some dance training. Still, she has never done ballroom style before. To get ready, she has been practicing every week with her dance partner, as well as rehearsing at home in between lessons.

Though its been a challenge, volunteering for the competition, particularly with the opportunity to support Youth Connections, was an easy decision.

“Youth Connections does very important work for the children in Johnson and Morgan counties,” she said. “It provides free summer camps for kids who need them. It offers crisis intervention, community education and mentoring for at risk youth. Kids are the future of our community and they need to be taken care of.”

At a glance

Dancing with the Johnson County Stars

When: Sept. 22 and 23

Where: Historic Artcraft Theatre, 57 N. Main St., Franklin

What: A fundraising competition pitting dancers representing eight community organizations against each other, to determine who can raise the most money for their agency and who is the best dancer.

Participants

  • Marta Corbin, Johnson County Extension Homemakers “Dog Tags” program
  • Ellis Hall, Johnson County Historical Society
  • Kim Henderson, Human Services
  • Laura Kennedy, Youth Connections
  • Chelsey Landwerlen, Haven Sanctuary for Women
  • Jessie Spurling, KIC-IT
  • Katie Stahlhut, Humane Society of Johnson County
  • Michael Thompson, CareNet Pregnancy Center

Tickets: The Sept. 22 all-ages show is $10 for adults, $5 for those 18 and under, and $25 for families with up to six members. The Sept. 23 21-and-over show is $30, and includes a refreshment.

Information: dancestar2.com or Facebook.com/dwtjcs

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.