Dancers use dazzling footwork to raise thousands of dollars for Iron County Children’s Justice Center

CEDAR CITY — The Iron County Children’s Justice Center “Dancing with the Community Stars” fundraiser Tuesday night was a rousing success, according to organizers.

“Dancing with the Community Stars,” Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 9, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Audience members packed the Heritage Center Theater, many with signs, score cards and noise makers, to cheer on their favorite dancers during the friendly competition. The seven contestants, who were each paired with a trained dancer, included a Cedar City Council member, a high school principal and other notable community figures.

After each pair had performed their routines before a panel of judges, audience members went out into the foyer during intermission to cast their votes for their favorites. The program was titled “When You Wish …” and in keeping with that theme, each of the evening’s musical numbers, including vocal performances, was from a Disney show.

Cedar City Council  member Tyler Melling and his dance partner, Melissa Lyman, performed an energetic salsa dance to “I Wanna Party” from the animated film “Rio” and were named the winners of the people’s choice award.

Winning the judge’s choice award were mortgage loan officer Tyson Williams and partner Ashtyn Giles, who performed a swing dance to “Life is a Highway,” from Disney’s “Cars.”

Williams and Giles were one of just two duos to receive a perfect score of 30 from the panel of judges, with the other being ERA principal broker Heather Roundy and her partner/daughter Shanae Hulet, who wrapped up the seventh and final competition dance of the evening with a jazz-style rendition of “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.”

Tyson Williams and Ashtyn Giles perform during “Dancing with the Community Stars,” Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 9, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The evening’s grand-prize winners, so honored because they raised the most money for the Children’s Justice Center, were local developer and contractor Alex Meisner and partner Andelin Mbaki, a Cedar High School senior and the reigning Miss Iron County. They also performed to the song “Circle of Life,” but their rendition of the song was in hip-hop style.

Jennifer Davis, president of the Friends of the Iron County Children’s Justice Center board, said they started the “Dancing with the Community Stars” event several years ago to raise awareness for the justice center and serve as its primary fundraising event each year.

“We had no idea it would grow to this level,” Davis told Cedar City News. “This year’s show and turnout from the community was the best we have ever had.”

Davis joined the center’s Executive Director Stephanie Ward onstage midway through the event and presented the Tom Braun Award for outstanding service in the community to two recipients, Kimberly Wilde and Ben Batty.

The other dance contestants included the following:

  • Businessman and Chamber of Commerce board member Aaron Brown, who also teamed with Hulet in a Bollywood-style dance to “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin.”
  • Cedar High School Principal Terri Sanders, who joined Jared Seidel in a waltz to “Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog.”
  • Tire store owner  and founding director of the Lions Club Spirit of ’76 parade Beth Stephenson, who tap-danced with partner Zachary Mittleman to “Proud Corazon” from “Coco.”
Heather Roundy and Shanae Hulet perform during “Dancing with the Community Stars,” Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 9, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The program was directed by City Council member R. Scott Phillips, with Brandon Burk serving as assistant director and master of ceremonies. Rhett Guter was the guest choreographer, and the three judges were ReAnne Reinischussel, Scott Burns and Betsy Sartini. 

Besides the featured competition dances, various other songs were performed during intervals in the program, including numbers by Brandon Burk, Brooklyn Jones, Cameron Harrell, Tamara Reber, Tanley McCurdy, Kelsea Burton, Talise Mosley and her puppet Astrid, Rhett Guter and the CJC Youth Ensemble.

“There isn’t an adequate way to thank all those who helped and participated this year,” Davis said afterward. “Our deepest gratitude goes to our fantastic director Scott Phillips, the community stars, dancers and performers, the CJC Youth Ensemble and all the other amazing participants.”

Beyond the participants, Davis said there wouldn’t be a show without the generous sponsors and community’s support. On Thursday, she told Cedar City News that, before expenses, they raised approximately $95,000 in ticket sales and sponsorships leading up to the show and another $20,000 during the event.

“It was by far our best show,” she said. “We are thrilled with the turnout. It was a sold out show!”

However, Davis said, “at the end of the day, when all of the dust settles, this really is about the children. They need someone to fight for them, to protect them and to advocate for them.”

For more information about the Iron County Children’s Justice Center and its mission, visit its website.

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